Breast cancer woman soldiers on

HARARE - Civil servant Resinita Dhemba is full of regret but has dedicated her life to ensuring that other women do not fall in the same trap.

“I got to know about it early last year but somehow I thought it would be healed through prayers”, she says, talking about her breast cancer situation.

“Right now I am having difficulties to concentrate. I do not remember when I last had a proper sleep” she continues with her face betraying the agony emanating from within her but frantically denying yielding her fighting spirit.

Dhemba is a breast cancer patient, whose condition is fully advanced and has taken up public awareness as a calling.

The breast has been largely disfigured, turning into a camouflaged mound of red, white and black flesh with holes, making it look like an erupting volcano.

The beautiful mother-of- was first diagnosed with the disease at the onset of last year but due to financial constraints, coupled with religious beliefs, she “kept away from the x-rays until May this year when the breast developed a sore”.

Her case is not isolated.

One in every eight women develops breast cancer during their lifetime, but a proper examination helps detect 90 percent of all breast lumps.

But medical authorities say the majority of the cases are diagnosed too late due to denial, poverty and religion.

Dhemba’s only wish is for people to get adequate awareness on the disease.

“If only I had known,” she says tears filling her eyes. “Maybe my breast would not have developed this far.”

The Cancer Registry says about 7 000 women in the country are diagnosed with the disease annually.
At least 80 percent of Zimbabwean women are not aware they should be screened and take lightly the gravity of the risk they face, health experts say.

They say breast cancer is caused by family heredity, lack of exercise, obesity or excessive drinking among other factors.

History has shown that in the majority of the cases women are diagnosed late because most of them only visit hospitals after experiencing excruciating pain or wounds.

Such people include none other than Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe.

“I first noticed the lump in 2005. And I would say to myself maybe it is the safety belt, maybe I did not sleep properly,” she said.

Khupe, a cancer survivor turned activist described how she deceived herself into believing she was cancer free.

Health minister Henry Madzorera said denial was significantly increasing cancer deaths in the country.
“If it took a whole Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe years to realise she had cancer, what more our grandmothers in the rural areas,” said Madzorera.

“There is need for the various stakeholders we have, including the private sector, to invest in advocacy and treatment,” he said.

Breast cancer is treated in several ways depending on the type and extent to which it would have spread.

Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological; therapy and radiation.

Those with breast cancer often get more than one type of treatment. - Wendy Muperi

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