Looking at the positive side of life and not the negative is Mishka Abrahams’ approach to dealing with breast cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Heideveld resident’s battle with breast cancer began in December 2003 when she felt a lump under her left arm.
After noticing the breast cancer awareness posters at the local clinic, Ms Abrahams decided to conduct a self-examination at home and felt a small lump in her left breast.
She often had lumps that would appear and disappear but this one did not go away.
“I went to lay on my bed and put my arm behind my back and felt my breast and noticed a tiny lump. I went to see my doctor who examined my breast and gave me a letter for a mammogram at Groote Schuur Hospital where I also had a biopsy done. They told me to come back a week later for the results,” she said.
Ms Abrahams described the drive to the hospital for her results as a very nervous one.
Her husband kept reassuring her and said not to worry as there was no history of breast cancer in her family.
She then met with the doctor and a professor who told her the good and bad news. The bad news was that she had cancer and the good news was that it was in its early stage.
The doctor gave her a choice between a mastectomy or a lumpectomy and because her cancer was in its early stage she could choose a lumpectomy. But after doing her own research with her daughter, she decided to have her left breast removed as the chances of the cancer returning was less that way.
“My husband was emotional about it and so were my children. I had to be strong for my family because it was a traumatic experience for them.
“My daughter had just given birth and I was asked to look after the baby when she returned to work, she thought I was going to die,” said Ms Abrahams.
In January 2004 she went back to the hospital for a consult and the following month she had her left breast removed, with the hope of a longer lifespan.
While in hospital a woman from the Reach for Recovery organisation visited her and gave her a pillow to put between her arm and her breast, a bag for the drainage, a few pamphlets with information and a temporary breast prosthesis.
“She told me how to go about things when recovering and said she had been a breast cancer survivor for 15 years. I thought, wow, so I do have a chance of recovery, and that made me feel better about my condition,” she said.
A week later she was discharged and another week later she had to choose between going for chemotherapy for three months or starting a course of tablets or five years.
In order to avoid the horrible side effects of chemotherapy, Ms Abrahams chose to take the tablet route but gained a lot of weight doing so.
A year later she contacted Reach for Recovery and joined the team which visits patients in hospital.
“Now, I am doing specialised fittings for a project of Reach for Recovery which raises funds for silicone prosthesis for women at state hospitals. It makes you feel good. I can encourage all women to go for the prosthesis because it makes you feel like a woman again.
“Breast cancer is not a death sentence, eat healthy and do regular exercise and go for regular mammograms,“ Ms Abrahams said.
For more about Reach for Recovery, call Carla Lind on 084 990 6656 or log on to www.reach4recovery.org.za/