Breast Cancer Warrior
Stage 4 HER2+
I AM CHANTEL OELOFSE AND THIS IS MY STORY
How did you begin your journey:
My journey started at the end of November 2018. I was 48 at the time. I undressed one Saturday evening and suddenly felt a lump in my right breast. My GP looked at it on Monday and wasn't very worried but agreed that I would need a mammogram and scan to rule out cancer. And it was at this appointment, where my world came crashing down. The radiologist was very certain that I had cancer in my right breast - the worst possible news one could ever get!
Fast forward by a week...I had had a biopsy, which confirmed that I had stage 3 cancer. And I had undergone a lumpectomy, during which the cancerous lump and some lymph nodes were removed. The lymph nodes did not contain cancer and the prognosis was looking very good at this point. It looked like I would only need radiation for about 5 weeks and would then be okay. Unbeknown to me, my MRI and CT scan that was done about 4 weeks later, showed a vastly different picture. I was on my own in the surgeon's rooms 2 weeks after the scans when he told me that I in fact had Stage 4 Cancer - it had already spread to the bones in my body (innumerable spots on my hips, spine and ribs). This news was even more devastating. Suddenly 5 weeks of radiation was being replaced with full-on chemotherapy - and my world just stopped turning at this point.... time just stood still.
What type of cancer were you diagnosed with:
I was diagnosed with Stage 4 HER2+ Breast Cancer. This was totally unexpected as I had no-one in my family with a history of cancer.
What treatment did you undergo:
I had 6 months of IV chemo (every 3 weeks) and thereafter another 3 months of a double dose of 2 different IV chemo "cocktails". After 9 months my bone marrow was unfortunately depleted and my blood counts had dropped to way below acceptable levels. It was at this point, after numerous blood-and platelet transfusions, that I got the devastating news that I would need to stop IV chemo treatment.
From this point onwards, I started taking a big dose of Capexa tablets daily and continued with the 3-weekly Herceptin injection. I have been on this treatment since October 2019.
How long have you been in remission:
The chemo never worked in terms of eradicating the cancer.Over the last 2 and a half years, all we managed was to keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. I had scans every 3 months and the results were always the same - no change whatsoever. So you can imagine my surprise when I went for my usual 3-monthly scans about 2 months ago (JULY 2021) and my oncologist confirmed that all the cancer spots in my body were "dead" - there was only scar tissue left. This was just after a visit to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Healer - and I know for certain that God healed me through her. A complete miracle! So... I am not in remission just yet - but I am hopeful that in time I will get there. In the meantime my treatment is continuing, to ensure that the cancer doesn't return.
What or who gave you the courage to fight:
I have survived a lot of adversity in my 51 years of life. I have been through divorce, had fertility issues and had suffered 3 consecutive miscarriages with my husband. And as luck would have it, my husband became an alcoholic after suffering a nervous breakdown when my daughter was only 18 months old and he remains an alcoholic to this day. I left my husband and the father of my 10 year old daughter 6 months into my IV chemo journey. I just knew that I needed to do this in order to survive. I believe that all the adversity I experienced throughout my life, built the strength I needed in order to walk this journey. And of course my now 12 year old daughter gives me a reason to fight every single day. She is my everything!! I have had no choice but to fight. Having said that, fighting came very naturally to me. It's just who I am.
What advice do you have for other warriors:
Manage your thoughts. Try not to give in to negative thoughts. It is no doubt a very tough journey as a cancer patient and you will experience days where it's impossible to be positive. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come with this journey, but don't dwell on it. Move through the emotions and then let it go. I really believe that my positive attitude made my journey a lot easier - the mind is incredibly powerful. Try to feed your mind positive thoughts. And NEVER give up hope.....EVER!
BUT....most importantly....if you are religious....hold onto your faith. Surrender. Let go and let God! He has already mapped out your journey. Put your faith in Him.
"If you cannot find the sunshine, be the sunshine."
Every single person is fighting some or other battle. Even while struggling with adversity, each of us can still be a light in someone else's life. So be THAT person...the one that actually cares and makes a difference!
The person I am today:
I definitely have a very different outlook on life now.....while still going through this journey called life. I've learnt to cherish the little moments...because they actually become the big moments. I try to not sweat the small stuff. And I've learnt to find the beauty in the simple things in life. I've learnt to make the most of every single moment. Because one's whole life can change in a second. And we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
My passion has become to share my story. I believe I was put on this journey and healed, so that I can be a living testimony and my story can give hope to others going through something similar. I am here to remind people that miracles do still exist.
I have attached some pictures to my story that represent different stages of my journey.
All my love