Shereen Rampersadh – Cancer Stories of Hope #CANSA90
What type of cancer did you have?
Non-small cell lung cancer adenocarcinoma.
What is your current cancer diagnosis?
Non-small cell lung cancer Egfr with bone mets (Egfr means epidermal growth factor receptor) Aprotin on a cell that helps them grow.
I’m currently on Tarceva tablets every morning and Zometa drip twice a month. Previously it was every month.
How long have you been living with that cancer?
Three years. I was diagnosed with cancer on the 2and June 2018.
How does living with cancer affect you in general in your day-to-day living?
It was difficult as there were lots of side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Chemo I suffered with vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of energy and loss of appetite.
Radiation made me have hot flushes and my skin burnt a lot.
Tarceva also had many side effects and there were days I would be sitting in the restroom vomiting my guts out with headaches and body rashes. Being exposed to sunlight made my rashes worse and it burnt my skin. My skin used to flake.
I could not eat proper food as I sometimes had no sense of taste and I had to eat very mild food even to this day. If I don’t eat mild food it causes acid reflux and heart burn.
I cannot perform my daily tasks such as sweeping, cleaning, cooking and shopping.
Is there a family history of cancer? Please elaborate if yes.
Yes. My late mum and her siblings died of cancer. My mum’s sisters had breast cancer and her brothers stomach, lung and brain cancer. My mum had cervical cancer. My cousin has colon cancer. Currently my uncle has brain cancer and had an operation.
How have you or your loved ones been affected by you living with cancer?
It was very difficult as I was one that had regular check-ups with my doctor. I remember clearly a sudden pain in my chest, the day my life turned upside down .
On 28 May 2018 I had to have major surgery a lobectomy on my right lung. Doctors came into my ward and prepared me for this procedure. It was very frightening as I was told I would be on the ventilator and kimbies diapers if my operation was not successful.
I was given consent forms to complete and sign which made me worried. My family was stressed out fearing the worst for me. My daughter had to put her studies on hold to care for me. My family took turns seeing to me. It was hard to watch my family suffer.
There were days where I suffered from severe bone pain. Favourite foods didn’t comfort me. I used to mess myself and it was depressing to see my family clean up.
How has having cancer affected you during this time of COVID-19?
It was frustrating as my family could not accompany me for my treatment. My husband was diagnosed with renal cancer during the lockdown and underwent surgery. We were unable to see him or comfort him during this stressful time. There was lots of anxiety. We were unable to support each other.
What is your message to our government regarding the prevention, management and treatment of cancer?
The government sector should endorse the same process as the private sector, having one oncologist seeing a patient so that proper treatment can be given. I feel government sectors should give all treatment for free, which includes the expensive tablets needed for treatment.
What is your message to other people living with cancer?
- Firstly family support is very important.
- Have a positive attitude and mind.
- Don’t think ‘I have cancer’ – cancel it out of your mind and brain.
- Take time to meditate.
- Correct diet is important.
- If you throw up make sure you eat, put whatever food down your throat, even if it comes out, eat again and again, as this helps for strength.
- Cry your guts out!
- Don’t let fear set in, as this will destroy you.
- Be strong and fight this monster!
Is pain a daily part of your life and how do you manage it?
Yes. I suffer lots of pain (also due to my previous spinal operation) and my cancer. I take natural remedies such as ginger tea and lemon water. I use patches which help and painkillers. I rest a lot. Zometa helps me with my pain, and it also maintains healthy bones and prevents lesions from growing.
What do you think CANSA should focus on?
Educating rural communities, as they lack knowledge of cancer and giving motivational speeches at schools that will educate the youth about the importance of cancer screening.