Cancer survivor recounts ‘kicking cancer’s butt’

2018-03-13 06:01
Mildred Frantz.

Mildred Frantz.

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Every year, according to the World Health Organisation (Who), about 14 million people hear the words “You have cancer”.

The disease is the third leading cause of death worldwide, after heart disease and stroke. This is no different in South Africa, where approximately 100 000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year – figures which are set to double by 2030.

With thousands of South Africans succumbing to this umbrella disease, which contains a spectrum of conditions – in many cases proving to be fatal – it’s not hard to see why surviving is an amazing feat. The importance of days like World Cancer Day, which was celebrated last month, gives survivors like Mildred Frantz (56) the opportunity to feel pride in stating “I kicked cancer’s butt”.

After being diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2013, the road to recovery was tough for the mother of two. Frantz noticed issues with her bowel movements, feeling “slightly constipated” in the weeks leading up to her diagnosis.

Frantz went to her doctor for a routine checkup, adding that she didn’t think the slight constipation was cause for concern.

After a series of blood tests, Frantz stayed overnight at Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands for additional testing. At this point she still didn’t suspect that her symptoms were the result of anything life threatening. Before she was informed about her test results the doctor asked if it was possible for her husband to be present – which was when she knew something was not right. Frantz’s husband Cavin (56) was in Australia for their niece’s 21st birthday and was unable to be by her side.

“Even though my husband was in Australia for our niece’s 21st and my son was in Grahamstown, I was fortunate enough to have my daughter at my side. Her being there gave me strength for what was to come. When the doctor gave me the news, I was shocked but I had the strongest feeling that there was a reason for me to fight,” she says.

It was a huge adjustment, but Frantz was determined. She completely revamped her lifestyle, swapping bad eating habits for healthier ones. She also started exercising, but admits she still struggles with fitting exercise into her hectic schedule, balancing life as a sales executive at a prominent car dealership while also being a wife and a mother.

It took Frantz eight cycles of chemotherapy at Melomed Gatesville Medical Centre, and one operation (at Vincent Pallotti) to remove a malignant tumour from her colon, before her oncologist finally told her she was cancer free.

“After they removed the cancerous part of my colon, I needed six cycles of chemo. A low point for me was when they decided I should have two extra cycles of chemotherapy, but looking back I realise how fortunate I was because the medical aid covered 100% of the costs,” explains Frantz.

It was when she received the news that she would soon become a grandmother that the reason for her strong will to live, when she was first diagnosed, became clear.

“The day I had my port fitted in preparation for chemo was when I was told we were expecting our first grandchild. The ups and downs of this journey have helped me to appreciate the important things in life and have taught me patience and tolerance, to be more forgiving and helpful towards others,” she says.

The support she received from her husband and children was essential on her road to recovery. Frantz has been in remission since April 2014 and she hails the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) as a “significant part” of her recovery.

Frantz is set to participate in her third Relay for Life this year, adding that through participation she’s learned the value of teamwork. The Athlone leg of Relay for Life is set to take place from Friday evening into Saturday, at Vangate Sports Complex.

The overnight event is aimed at survivors and caregivers alike, encouraging individuals to celebrate their survival and support, remembering those who’ve lost the battle and creating awareness about the methods of prevention and early detection of the disease­.

“Stay positive and do the things that make you feel good. If you can do that, half the battle is won,” concludes Frantz.

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