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Breast Cancer Gladiator – Nomvula Riba

My name is Nomvula Riba , I’m 40years old . My journey of Hope began the month I turned 36 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I felt a lump on my right breast and consulted my GP who thought it could have been a cyst and prescribed antibiotics.

Nomvula Riba

A week later I felt more lumps and by then I had a dent – looked like something was pulling inside. That’s when I really got concerned and requested a referral. I was referred for a mammogram- then a biopsy, which came back with “unfortunately its CANCER” from the doctor. I was never ready nor prepared to hear those words. I was shocked, lost and very scared of the unknown journey I was about to start.

Then followed a lot of tests and scans – as I went through all this- I was numb and confused- but did whatever was told to do. In that period I couldn’t even tell anyone about what was happening because I didn’t know how to deal with my fears let alone other people’s fears. A week or 2 later after diagnosis I had a mastectomy of the left breast- the pain and sadness I had when I woke up after surgery without a breast , I still cannot describe the feeling. The sadness and pain that the one thing that I never paid much attention to in my body is the same thing that nearly killed me. After a couple of days in the hospital I left for home, I was ready to deal with the world without a breast. I had to go back to my children and figure out how to move on.

After surgery, I started to consult with an Oncologist- Dr. K. Tabane- our first consult after surgery involved results which were done, indicating the stage of the cancer and what treatments I was going to get. In April I started with Adriamycin ( the red devil) , which I received every 3 weeks for 3 months- in which I lost my hair and a lot of chaos was unfolding in this journey. The trauma of seeing my hair in my hands – I never wish for anyone to experience.

By the time I started Chemo – I had made up my mind that I was going to fight this Cancer that invaded my body. I was going to survive for my kids. Chemo treatment was painful and with it came a lot of side effects like nausea, fatigue and the list goes on. Then I received Taxotere for the further 3 months and that was much easier than the AC. For my own sanity, I continued to go to work and tried to keep my kids’ life as normal as possible – it was difficult – but looking back it was all worth it.

As a result of the cancer being her 2 poaitive I had to get HERCEPTIN for 12 months and in that time my hair was starting to grow and that gave me more hope that things were getting better. I’m currently on Tamoxifen , Zoladex as the cancer is also hormone receptor positive.

Two and a half years later , I went through the process of breast reconstruction and it was the best decision ever, as it was part of my healing process. I have come to realise that my life will never be the same, as a result I’m learning everyday to adjust to the new norm.

Because of what I went through, for me it was important to offer my support to those newly diagnosed. For me it’s like I have to lessen the pain for others that I went through. I talk a lot about my journey in order to give others hope and for them to see that Cancer is not always a death sentence.

There is a support group called AmaQhawekazi(translated” the heroines “ in Zulu)which is a safe haven for those that have gone through this journey. This group is not meant to give solutions - but to connect and support each other especially after the doctor says – u are free from cancer and the treatment is finished, because it is after that where its ideal to meet with people who understand and have a common purpose. Support in this journey is very important.

Going forward with the Journey of Hope for this Gladiator – I will continue to support those who are newly diagnosed I’m the living testimony that Cancer can be survived!