Reach for Recovery: how to choose to go forward after breast cancer

2015-10-08 06:00

Most life stories are littered with seminal moments that influence – and sometimes dictate – how we choose to go forward with our lives.

Breast cancer survivor and Reach for Recovery volunteer Josey Nonkonyana, recalls the day that changed her life forever.

Josey was walking down the high street, wearing a pink breast-cancer-signifying ribbon, when a man approached her and asked for help for his ailing 16-year-old daughter. His wife, he said, had died of breast cancer three years earlier.

She followed him to an informal settlement nearby and found the teenage girl in terrible pain, and – judging by the discolouration of the skin on her young breast – already in an advanced stage of breast cancer.

The teenager died on the way to hospital, on the back seat of Josey’s car.

“Nothing in life happens without a reason. It was as though that child was meant to die in my car: her death changed the direction of my life. That day I realised that I was needed in the townships, in informal settlements – among poor people. That day I resolved to start my township groups – and within weeks was up and running.”

Reach for Recovery, is a non-profit organization that supports women who have had one or both breasts removed after being diagnosed with a malignancy. They also help women, girls and housewives admitted to hospitals.

But Josey, a three-time cancer survivor (breast, bone and liver – three years clear of all three) says her sense of purpose kicked in when she began working in the impoverished areas: “I’d forgotten about the people at grass roots which was where my help was most needed.

“My job is to bring a message of hope to those women who have lost one or both breasts.”

Fresh from a trip to Beijing as the South African RFR representative to the 18th international RFR conference, Josey said the world’s representatives at Beijing were astonished by South African RFR practice of giving free prosthetics to indigent women who could not afford it otherwise. Reach for Recovery is a non-profit organisation that helps women regain some of the self-esteem they’ve been deprived of by breast cancer. The organisation is totally dependent on fund-raisings

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