Breast cancer survivor: ‘Don’t give into it’

2017-10-19 06:01
After two bouts of cancer, four years apart, Hankey resident Ailsa Raede-Sherwin, still lives life with determination and spunk.          Photo:MONIQUE BASSON

After two bouts of cancer, four years apart, Hankey resident Ailsa Raede-Sherwin, still lives life with determination and spunk. Photo:MONIQUE BASSON

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HANKEY resident Ailsa Raede-Sherwin is a cancer survivor. But even before the cancer, she was a survivor - and she says it is all in the attitude you take.

“I am still living with determination and spunk,” says the young senior burger who ran away from a retirement village in Port Elizabeth she called the funny farm.

Raede-Sherwin, a former salon owner who moved to Hankey in 2005, was diagnosed with colon cancer on October 27, 1992 - only weeks after her husband, Dieter, passed away in her arms from lung cancer. Four years later, she received the shocking news that she had breast cancer.

Since then, she’s been through myriads of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

However, she made the decision that cancer is not going to become the centre of her world. “I can live with cancer, but it is not going to be my life,’ says Raede-Sherwin.

It was her sense of humour and sheer determination that kept her going through the days of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. “Attitude is everything, it can make or break you,” she says. “It is going to help you and your family in how you cope with things.”

Raede-Sherwin says once diagnosed with breast cancer, she was given the option of a mastectomy or lumpectomy as the cancer has not yet spread.

Even before she could make her final decision, another cancer patient entered the room. “She lifted up her top, and said: ‘Aisla, don’t worry, I had breast cancer’. All I could see was the two bags of bird seed pinned to her vest. I nearly passed out,” she says laughingly. “That was the most traumatic of the whole ordeal.”

After hearing her late husband telling her not to do anything radical, Raede-Sherwin opted for the lumpectomy.

They took a slice of my chocolate cake away.”

Some 21 years after the operation, she experienced some problems with the wound, which she had fixed earlier this month.

She had another scare at the beginning of the year when she discovered a lump in her left breast. After numerous tests, she received an all-clear test result this Monday.

“I have been really blessed on my cancer journey. I was surrounded by loving friends who supported me every step of the way - even when Dieter got sick. I want to say especially thank you to the day and night staff in Cedar Ward 3 at St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth who recently took such great care of me, as well as to Doctor Ronel Gowar who fixed up my wound and her wonderful personal assistant. Furthermore, I want to thank Hospice - without their support I would not have been able to look after Dieter.

“Thank you to everyone who prayed for and supported me on this difficult journey.”

Her message to other cancer patients? “There are three kinds of healing: spiritual, mental and physical. I was blessed with all three, but not everyone is that fortunate. You must have faith that you will be healed, but if it is not meant to be, it is not meant to be. But you cannot give in, you must be strong. Do not let death walk in before it is its time.”

Today, Raede-Sherwin is happy to call herself a cancer survivor.


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