Meesha Naidoo is happy to be cancer free.
Meesha Naidoo was just recovering from German measles when she felt a small bean-sized lump under her breast.
The painless lump would disappear and so Naidoo did not think that it was serious.
After jokingly sharing her light concerns about her painless but now growing lump to her dear friend, Yvette, her friend said, “Meesha, please go have it checked out. It could be nothing or if it is something, there are different stages and if you catch it early then it is treatable.”
After some time of thorough thinking, Naidoo went to see Dr B Naidoo, where he did a physical check up on Naidoo and immediately summoned her to see Dr Pramod Reddy.
After not informing any of her family members, Naidoo confided in her sisters, Samantha and Kim. She then reluctantly offloaded her worries to her husband, Donney, who was already dealing with the loss of his mother.
“It broke me completely to make Donney feel my pain, but I needed his support,” she said.
Naidoo went in on a Saturday to see Dr Reddy for consultation, in which an ultrasound was done and it revealed a darkening on one of her lymph nodes. Dr Reddy then informed Naidoo, who was with her husband during the doctor’s visit that a biopsy had to be done.
The biopsy appointment was booked for Monday which Naidoo rebooked to Thursday because of being overwhelmed with fear. Chantel and Kalay, Naidoo’s sisters-in-law went to the rescheduled Thursday appointment with their sister-in-law out of pure love and support.
Dr Reddy performed a core biopsy and told Naidoo to come back on Monday for the results. Naidoo described that long weekend as torture while awaiting the results.
The only thing she reckons that she heard at that Monday appointment were the words ‘stage 2 breast cancer’, everything else that Dr Reddy that was said was a haze. Naidoo’s treatment of chemotherapy and tamoxifen which is a hormone-blocking pill was scheduled for every third week for 10 years.
“My doctor explained that chemotherapy would be most aggressive and that I would lose my hair,” she said.
Naidoo woke up on the first day of her treatment feeling scared but ready to fight. She described her first one and half hour drip as ‘ice cold poison burning through her veins.’
“After 10 days of my first chemotherapy, my hair began to fall. It was absolutely horrible so I decided to shave it off completely which was less stressful,” said Naidoo.
Each chemo broke her completely. “My mind had no control over my body. The vomiting was uncontrollable along with the other harsh side effects. I was a man down for a week, unable to drink or eat. I felt like a little child, broken…my thoughts were mostly of childhood memories, happiness, where I longed to be in my mommy’s arms, safe, wishing for her to hold me tight against her chest and telling me that all will be alright.”
It broke Naidoo to make her precious children watch her become helpless during her chemo days.
“My elder daughter instantly became a mother figure to my youngest during my toughest days,” she said.
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Forcing herself to go to work made her feel normal again and made her forget about the torture she had endured every third week.
“After five months of chemo, it was finally over. My tumor had shrunk. I was relieved and ready for the next step. My lumpectomy operation was booked for February 2017. In January 2017, I felt alive and even more positive,” she said.
Naidoo then received a call from the genetic sister from the Albert Luthuli Hospital.
Little did Naidoo know that she would be tortured again. The news she received broke her completely.
The genetic test results came back positive and Naidoo was a carrier of the BRCA1 Gene. After hearing this dreadful news, she broke down. Dr Bucchimaza told Naidoo that she would have both of her breasts removed.
After a six-hour operation, both breasts had been removed and replaced with a pair of new breasts. Naidoo was in the hospital for 10 days before being sent home to recover for four weeks. Naidoo is now on Exemestane and Zoladex, a hormone blocker, which puts her into early menopause.
“I have regular visits with Dr Brakovski, my plastic surgeon, who has done a great job with my saline implants,” she said.
Naidoo had two more operations to go. She had a procedure for permanent silicone implants in December 2017. The elated woman is happy to say that she is cancer free.
“This disease called cancer waits for no one. It doesn’t choose colour, it doesn’t choose age, it doesn’t choose gender, it doesn’t choose religion, whether you healthy or not, fat or thin, rich or poor. It waits for no one, but through it all, in some strange way, this disease called ‘Cancer’ has the power to unite us all,” Naidoo said.