As she celebrates 11 years of being cancer free, Betty Nkhweng (48) is urging women to have their breasts checked.
“This month is very important. It is a good thing that it is breast cancer month as this is accompanied by various awareness campaigns. People need to be alert to the disease,” said Nkhweng, who lives in Soshanguve.
She is involved with support organisation Buddies For Life, which seeks to help people who have the disease navigate their healing journey.
“I go to different places and motivate people. We spread awareness about breast cancer. We go to doctors to obtain more information about the disease, and then we pass on this information to the people we motivate at various events,” said Nkhweng.
The mother of one said she discovered in 2007 that she had breast cancer.
“I noticed blood on my breast and visited a doctor, who told me to have a mammogram.”
Nkhweng did so, and was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Cancer in May 2008 which led to the removal of her breast.
“After learning that I had to remove my breast, I was stressed out, but I accepted it. I was lucky that they found it in stage three and that it had not spread to other parts of my body.
“I thought I was going to die because in my mind, cancer was a deadly disease. I was in a relationship and it was affected a lot because my man thought I was too sick.”
News about Nkhweng’s diagnosis came as a shock to her family; they thought they were going to lose her.
“My family was stressed but I remained strong because I knew that I was not going to die,” she said.
She said she opted not to have a breast implant after her operation to show other people that she was still a woman.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) 2018 study shows that breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, affecting 2.1 million women each year.
It also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women.
Last month, the WHO said it was estimated that 627 000 women had already died from breast cancer in 2018 – amounting to about 15% of all cancer deaths among women.
While breast cancer rates are higher among women in more developed regions, rates are increasing in nearly every region globally, the WHO said.
These days, Nkhweng is actively involved in motivational speaking and participates in fun walks and marathons as her way of giving back to the community. She also visits hospitals to speak to cancer patients.
She has about 65 people whom she currently counsels.
“I call them and motivate them. I go to the homes of some of them to check up on them, and I encourage them to stay strong until they are done with the surgery and the healing process.”
Nkhweng says she does not have any health problems and checks herself every morning.
“If I feel anything on my body, I rush to the doctor. People are dying every day because of cancer. I am still alive because of the God I pray to.” She says people who have the disease must not give up.
“They must go through the treatment and believe that they will heal.”