NICOLA’S STORY KEEPING MORE THAN HOPE ALIVE

I remember the beginning, so clearly. It was towards the end of my Grade 9. I had “settled” into adolescence, and was participating in all the items my high school could offer; I was the prime picture of as a fit as a fiddle.

 

Then, out of nowhere, there was a weird pain in my lower abdomen, and my tummy just began expanding. For a week or so, I attributed it to period pains, and muscle cramps from exercising. Our family doctor, said it was just a big mass growing in my abdomen, most definitely benign, (looking at my age), and booked me into a hospital in Pretoria to have it removed.  After surgery, it was sent in for testing, where it proved to be a malignant tumour. After a whole bunch of further tests and scans, I was told I had stage 2 germ cell ovarian cancer. I underwent chemotherapy for three months, and then started my remission journey on the 1st April 2011.  It was a short encounter with the dreaded disease, but my world was completely flipped upside down.

During my treatment at the Little Company of Mary Hospital, my parents and I stayed at the CHOC house in Pretoria. To me CHOC house came to represent much more than a free place to sleep and eat, while I was receiving treatment. The caretakers at the home, Tannie Mimmi and Oom Willie were parents for my parents. They were a fountain of hope, knowledge and a sense of direction. Beyond the financial consequences, terminology you have never heard of, blood tests and scans; a family is just never fully prepared for the journey that lies ahead. I remember sitting in the lounge as multiple families with very different backgrounds, would have dinner together and engage, and find joy in the little things. It was the one place, where I felt free to take off my wig, and still feel absolutely normal.

Looking back, there were a lot of untrue stereotypes surrounding cancer, my story defied in my community. It doesn’t target a particular race, age, gender or lifestyle only. And if discovered early, especially in childhood, it can be cured! Cancer was a trying part of my story, but because of God’s grace, it has a happy ending. Through God, I am more than a survivor; mentally, I’m a hero of the battle! I’m ready to conquer the world as future CA (SA), and inspire other heroes to keep dreaming.

 Nicola Hlongwane

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