SURVIVOR. That’s the best word to describe a woman who has battled two different types of cancer and gone on to become an extraordinary example of the power of love and hope.
“And I’m still here and I’m still beautiful,” she says, beaming. October is breast cancer awareness month, and as the month draws to a close the 37-year-old mom wants to share her story to show other women that cancer need not be a death sentence.
Duratius is chatting with her mom, Nnanki Mohulatsi, best friend Dipolelo Phokela, and twin daughters Tsholofelo and Tshegofatso (10) when DRUM arrives at her mother’s house in Dobsonville, Soweto.
“I asked you to meet me here because this is where my support system is. When I was sick, this was where I stayed and recovered,” she says.
Duratius’ journey of despair and triumph began when she was 22 and suffered lower abdominal pains and repeated sexually transmitted infections for almost a year.
“I kept going back to the doctor because the medication wasn’t working. And of course I suspected my boyfriend was cheating on me,” she says.
Eventually, a week before her 23rd birthday, she asked her doctor to do a pap smear. He thought it was a little extreme but did the test anyway – and the results would change her life forever.
“The doctor is a friend of mine, and he gave me the results so I could read them for myself,” she says.
She couldn’t believe it: she had cervical cancer. “I was young, still having fun. I didn’t want to deal with such a thing. I didn’t even know if I wanted to have children or not.”
Her mother was devastated. “She said perhaps this was God’s way of talking to her, so she joined the Grace Bible Church here in Soweto. She also said I should have a hysterectomy to make sure the cancer was removed.”
But the more Duratius thought about it, the more she realised she really wanted to become a mother.
“I’m an only child and I didn’t want to die and leave my mom on her own. I wasn’t afraid of death – I just didn’t want to leave her with no one in the world.”
DURATIUS started radiation treatment in 1998 and doctors advised it would be best for her to have a hysterectomy. But she resisted. She had a boyfriend and who knew – her dream of pregnancy could yet come true.
Then she discovered her boyfriend had made another girl pregnant and she was crushed. “When I asked him how he could do that to me, he said that he’d had to move on because I couldn’t have children,” she recalls bitterly.
But she didn’t sit around moping for long. She remembered a guy (whom she doesn’t want to name) who had pursued her for a long time – and she’d kept saying no because she was in a relationship.
“I called him and told him I was available for that date he’d kept pestering me for!” she laughs. They met up, clicked and started dating. After a while she told him about her health problems. “He didn’t care that I might not be able to have children or that I might die. We were in love and that was all that mattered.”
Read the full article in DRUM of 21 October 2010