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a�?I HATED myself; the self- resentment was just too much to bear,a�? recounts 36-year-old Gressilda Moyo on the turbulent emotions that became part of her daily life as she underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment.
Ita��s often said that a mirror is a valued accessory for any woman but for Moyo the mirror, in fact, turned out to be her worst a�?enemya�?.
a�?Looking at myself in the mirror was unbearable, because of chemotherapy I shaved by head as I had started experiencing hair loss. My complexion started turning darker,a�? said the naturally light skinned beauty, born and bred in Bulawayo.
Chemotherapy is the use of a drug to treat a disease but to most people, the word is associated with cancer treatment.A� Chemotherapy in relation to radiation therapy is treatment that kills or damages cancer cells in a certain area of the body.
Now based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Moyoa��s life was turned upside down on 9 November 2015 when she visited her doctor for a routine checkup after she had felt a strange lump on her left breast a few days earlier.
a�?My GP (general practitioner) refereed me to a specialist at Helen Joseph Hospital, who in turn collected a biopsy sample for further analysis,a�? recounts Moyo.
A biopsy is a sample of tissue taken from the body in order to examine it more closely and a doctor can recommend a biopsy when an initial test suggests an area of tissue in the body isna��t normal.
The abnormal tissue could be a tumour or a lump.
Awaiting the biopsy results was the longest wait the mother of two has had to endure in her entire life.
a�?I was a complete nervous wreck when I collected the biopsy results on 24 March 2016. And my worst fears were confirmed when the results indicated that I had breast cancer, which was in its third stage. The breast cancer was at an advanced stage and the only available option was surgery. My whole world seemed to crumble around me,a�? she said.
The surgery to remove Moyoa��s left breast was set for 5 June 2016.
a�?I went through a lot of emotions from the thought of dying and leaving behind my husband and two daughters to extreme depression. I could not handle my youngest daughter, who was five years old at that time, seeing me in that state so I sent her back to Zimbabwe to live with her grandmother while I awaited surgery,a�? added Moyo.
It was through her familya��s support, especially her 21-year-old daugher and husband, which helped Moyo through the darkest days of her life leading up to the day of the surgery.
a�?So many things have changed since the surgery, Ia��m in a such a good space in my life that I dona��t even notice that I have one breast. I know so many women who buy artificial breasts after surgery but Ia��m content even without my left breast,a�? she said.
She now spots a bold head.
a�?I love the new look, the chiskop (street lingo for a clean shaven head) is now my hairstyle of choice and its cheaper,a�? she chuckles.
Moyo goes for regular checkups after every three months and takes tamoxifen a�� drugs used to treat and prevent some types of breast cancer.
A proud and strong willed breast cancer survivor, Moyo does not miss an opportunity to encourage her friends, family and even her own daughter to regularly conduct self breast examination for early detection of lumps or abnormal tissue on their breasts.
October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ) is conducting campaigns to educate the populace on breast cancer.
And men are not spared by the disease either, according to CAZ.
a�?Statistics show that in every 100 women affected by breast cancer, one man is diagnosed with the disease so men must do away with the myth that breast cancer only affects females.
a�?In fact, in most cases when a male is diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease is usually at an advanced and aggressive stage as a result of late detection,a�? said CAZ Information, Research and Evaluation Officer Lovemore Makurirofa.
Makurirofa noted that a significant number of breast cancer patients are seeking treatment outside the country, a development that CAZ strongly objects to.
a�?We implore breast cancer patients to seek treatment outside the country only at the advice of local cancer specialists because Zimbabwe has medical facilities that can effectively treat breast cancer.
a�?Radiotherapy, for instance, is locally available and ita��s important that breast cancer patients are closely monitored by local doctors during treatment or after surgery and the support of family is very important during recovery,a�? he said.
Breast cancer contributes 7 percent of the total number of cancer cases that are reported in the country annually.
Six years ago politician Thokozani Khuphe upped her battle against breast cancer stigma when she revealed that she had lost one breast.
a�?Yes, I have cancer and now one breast, so what? It is not something to be shy about. When I am with my family that is when people realise I have only one breast. But when I am not at home, I make sure I pad myself so that I look like I have both of my breasts when in reality I do not,a�? Khuphe told the media at the time.
a�?And people should remember that cancer is not an event, but a process. As it is, I am up and kicking as you can see me,a�? she said.