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Denise Reddy – Taking the Leap of Faith – Cancer Stories of Hope #CANSA90

Denise Reddy

What is your current cancer diagnosis?

Remission.

How long have you been living with that cancer?

I was diagnosed in October 2019.

How does living with cancer affect you in general in your day-to-day living?

Living with cancer is a tough journey, the struggle with pain in the joints is very challenging. I must admit that the battle with stress and anxiety and of course the depression that finally kicks in.

My diagnosis has affected not only me , but my entire family.

1. Your role as a mother will be automatically be taken away.
2. You will be a patient and feel like a prisoner in your home.
3. All roles are taken over by your husband and kids.
4. My independence has gone out of the window.
5. My identity has changed, my complete being is different.

Is there a family history of cancer? Please elaborate if yes.

My late mom had cancer of the cervix, unfortunately she succumbed due to a severe stroke. My late brother who passed away in August 2020, battled colon cancer and was in remission for 5 years. In January 2020 he found out that the cancer had spread to his lungs and he also succumbed to this. My family always had a fear of cancer, most of my life I heard people talk about this horrible disease.

How have you or your loved ones been affected by you living with cancer?

My family was extremely devastated. All I thought about was that I was going to die and not see my family again. I think we were also so disappointed, in the prime of our lives, kids are out of the house, time for my husband and I to start living and travelling. Our jobs were done with our kids, and all the responsibilities that come with it. Suddenly my whole life was turned upside down, by this diagnosis – ‘you have breast cancer’.

My husband felt totally lost, not knowing how to deal with the unknown. He also went into panic mode. When this happened he froze. My daughter was so scared for me, I could sense it, even though she kept putting on a brave face. My daughter tried her best to assist me during my treatments, although she was advanced in her pregnancy. My son went into auto-mode and just started to deal with all my affairs. He had to keep himself busy in order not to think too much, as that is his way of dealing with stress. We all are dealing with this disease to the best of our abilities. We have to find contentment within that place.

How has having cancer affected you during this time of COVID-19?

The most scary time of my life, I never felt so worried and so afraid of dying from COVID-19. I became so paranoid. You should see what my hands look like from all the washing and sanitizing. Living in total fear of the unknown, as we learnt to navigate through the unknown circumstances things became a little easier. My family pulled together trying to arrange my appointments. The fear of sitting in hospitals or oncology centres for hours is so frustrating. One is so scared that you will get infected during chemo.

What is your message to our government regarding the prevention, management and treatment of cancer?

Patients living with cancer are facing so many challenges:

1. Every person newly diagnosed with cancer should be given the chance to live.
2. We must have access to medical treatments that are life changing without suffering to get there.
3. All patients should be treated equally in hospitals, whether you have a medical aid or not, patients are real people.
4. The financial strain on the individual is absolutely exhausting to deal with, there should be a relief fund for people who can’t afford treatment.
5. Should make people more aware of cancer, more campaigns on the prevention and treatment.

What is your message to other people living with cancer?

My fellow warriors, you are not alone. Cancer cannot destroy who you truly are. We ride the chemo wave with all the our might. We will fight to stay alive. One thing to remember that no matter what faith or religion you belong to, you need to continue to have faith and pray everyday, because God is in control. Don’t give in to the bed, get up and live your life to the fullest, even on the days that you feel like rolling up and covering your head for days.

You have a lot of fight in you, just search there. Cancer cannot shatter Hope; Cancer cannot corrode Faith; Cancer cannot steal eternal life…

Finally stand up, stand tall. Get up and live whether you are tired, hurting , scared or just lack motivation, this won’t last forever, this too shall pass.

We must pay forward with what we have learnt from cancer. Live to survive and tell your story of encouragement.

Keep holding on, stay strong!

Is pain a daily part of your life and how do you manage it?

I have experienced a lot of headaches, more like a migraine. This can last for a few days. I get some joint pain and battle to walk. My arm is not so good and I battle to move it around. I also struggle with constant fatigue and weakness. I battle sometimes to get through the day but I really push myself. One consolation that i have the pain medication that helps.

I started doing some cardio, meditation and some Yoga on the days when I feel motivated (at least 3 times a week). I believe that this helps me cope. It helps me to be more focussed, otherwise the brain fog kicks in.

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