‘I’m a symbol of hope’

2017-06-27 14:15
Cancer survivor and activist Aneetha Moodley is living proof that ‘cancer is not a death sentence’. She has dedicated her life to help support cancer patients through treatment.

Cancer survivor and activist Aneetha Moodley is living proof that ‘cancer is not a death sentence’. She has dedicated her life to help support cancer patients through treatment. (Ian Carbutt)

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Cancer survivor Aneetha Moodley is a “symbol of hope” to all those who think cancer is a death sentence.

After being diagnosed with colo­rectal cancer (cancer of the large intestine) nine years ago, Moodley, who is a retired social worker, has dedicated her life to volunteering as she provides counselling for cancer patients in and around the Midlands.

The Raisethorpe mother of two said although she retired as a professional social worker she still considered herself as one because of the voluntary work she does at the CANSA Association.

“I developed problems with bowel movements due to what I thought was stress from my job and life at the time. I had a seven-month treatment for a non-cancer-related illness until I insisted on getting more tests done and that’s when I was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer in 2008.

“It is a common problem. People are diagnosed pretty late even though the symptoms are there, people are treated for a variety of other things and that has a great impact on the outcome of the treatment.

“If my cancer was detected sooner the treatment would have not been as aggressive.

“Treating the cancer was absolutely horrific. I had surgery and had part of my colon removed, I had chemotherapy, radiation and the side effects were absolutely devastating.

“What I realised is that when you are diagnosed you feel okay but when they start to treat the cancer, that is when you really get sick.

“Unfortunately for me the radiation treatment damaged my small intestines and I had to get a portion of it removed, so I ended up having removed part of my colon and small intestine.

“I now live with chronic diarrhoea.

“My treatment is over now but I still do annual checks. I still have to have treatment for my diarrhoea as it is a condition I will live with for the rest of my life.

“Cancer may impact the quality of one’s life but it definitely doesn’t end it.

“While working as a social worker I always wanted to do volunteer work but after my fight with cancer I knew that I had to volunteer at the Cancer Association.

“I started working there in January 2014.

“I help with patient care, which includes counselling for recently diagnosed patients and their families because often people panic and think cancer is a death sentence.

“I am a symbol of hope. Nine years after being diagnosed with cancer I am still alive, there is life after cancer.

“I help them to accept and go through the treatment because once you accept the diagnosis the healing process is easier.

“I work closely with the oncology unit at Grey’s Hospital where we offer counselling, do home visits, and telephone follow-ups for patients. We also donate from our pockets to provide for the patients who really have nothing.

“The patients who visit Grey’s often don’t have much, some come in from far flung places all around KZN and we help provide food and fruits for them while they wait to see the doctors.

“I also initiated a cancer support group three years ago where cancer patients and survivors get together and share their experiences, coping tips and just to offer support to one another.

“A diagnosis by a doctor is a clinical thing. I feel doctors are trained to diagnose and treat but they are not trained to deal with the emotional element that comes with the diagnosis.

“That is why it is so important to have a support structure and counselling.

“Being diagnosed with cancer comes as an extreme shock and without proper emotional support a patient cannot survive.

“It is important that people undertake lifestyle changes to prevent being diagnosed with cancer as prevention is better than treatment.”

Aneetha Moodley as told to Nompilo Kunene

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pmb people

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