‘Carpe diem’ - seize the day

2016-10-18 06:00
 Photo: Sarah BraunsAdélle Botes was 32 when she was diagnosed with stage 2A inflammatory breast cancer.

Photo: Sarah BraunsAdélle Botes was 32 when she was diagnosed with stage 2A inflammatory breast cancer.

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MOTHER-of-two, Adélle Botes, was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 2A inflammatory breast cancer.

“For me breast cancer had to happen. In December 2004 I was just living. I had a good marriage, two lovely children aged nine and 12. I was a Sunday school teacher and home cell leader [at church], a make-up artist and I helped my husband, Herman, in his photographic business.

“It was the end of November 2004, a few days after my youngest daughter turned nine, and as always we woke up and the children got in my bed for a cuddle while Herman made coffee.
“We did Bible study together and then I leaned over to pick up my cup and the back of my left wrist just fleetingly touched my right breast. I will never be able to explain that in one split second I knew that nothing will be the same again.”

She said it was like a movie, but in slow motion.
“All I could hear was my heart beating in my ears. I just knew this was serious. I looked up at my husband and said I have a lump on my breast.

“My doctor laughed our concerns away saying that at 32 it will only be hormonal and cancer lumps don’t just pop out, they grow bit by bit.
“So she gave me antibiotics and sent me home.”

However, three weeks later Adélle’s breast was double in size, and inflamed
“It was like I was breast feeding, but again the doctor didn’t worry, but this time I insisted I wanted it tested. We had no medical aid, but I could not go to a state hospital. I was booked in to see a surgeon at Entabeni Hospital the following day.

The doctor did a biopsy and sent Botes for a breast scan because she was too young for a mammogram.

“Although I was officially diagnosed in November reality set in that December morning and while the nurses were singing Christmas carols I wanted to run as far from this as possible, but my fighter spirit did not allow me too.
“I met with my oncology surgeon who did another biopsy - the lump by then had grown another one centimetre - and sent me for numerous tests, including a bone scan, a bone survey, chest X-ray and brain CT scan, and while waiting for the results, my rock, my husband Herman, sat next to me holding my hand.

“I was diagnosed with stage 2A inflammatory breast cancer. This is a rare type of breast cancer. Only one in four breast cancers out of every 100, are this type. It is called ‘inflammatory’ because the breast tissue becomes inflamed, and the cancer cells block the smallest lymph channels in the breast.

“It was decided to first start with chemo. On 6 January I started three treatments, 21 days apart. I decided from the start that I would not allow my feelings and fear to rule, but that my faith in Christ would be my strength.
“When my hair started falling out we had a hair party. As I had long hair my youngest daughter cut it in a bob and then my oldest daughter shaved it in a Mohawk.
“We took photos, had cake and celebrated us as a family. Then Herman shaved it all off.

“In April the inflammation and swelling was under control and I went for a mastectomy.
“I chose immediate reconstruction - in hindsight I would have not done that as the inflammation risk was too high - and woke up six hours later with a little bump where my breast had been.

“Cancer taught me to never put things off - during chemo I promised myself to never say ‘one day’ again, but to always seize the moment.”

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