My Story | Gauteng woman details the cost of living with breast cancer

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Tshepi Moropa is struggling to cover all her medical bills as she fights breast cancer.
Tshepi Moropa is struggling to cover all her medical bills as she fights breast cancer.

Deep down in her heart she knew what the results might say, but she hoped for the best.

Towards the end of last year, Tshepi Moropa (29) drove herself to her GP because she had felt lumps in her breast and she had noticed discharge coming out, which prompted her to visit her doctor.

“As I was driving there, I could see my family tree in my head and all the people that had had cancer and I knew that my chances of dodging the bullet were very slim because we have a history of cancer in the family. I am a very realistic person and I generally face things head on,” she says.

But when she arrived in her doctor’s room, she did not immediately tell him about the lumps and discharge. She told him about her exhaustion, sleeplessness and “by the way I have noticed something in my breasts”.

“My doctor told me I should have led with that and everything else was secondary. He checked me out and sent me more for scans on the same day. He wanted me to get ultrasounds done. I was very anxious and when my doctor called me with the results I froze. I did not even know who to call. People in my life have always said that I am strong, and I can handle anything, but this is where I drew the line, I had seen firsthand what cancer can do to you and I did not know if I had the strength to fight it,” she says.

Read more | Doctor's personal loss inspires her to open a breast care unit in Polokwane

But she did fight it. After her diagnosis in December 2020, she started taking pills in January that were meant to prepare her for surgery, but they were making her sick. The cancer was caught at stage one.

“I was fortunate that they did not have to remove my breasts, they just took out the lumps.”

Because she has an underlying heart condition, she spent four days in hospital after her surgery in April.

“Cancer is very malicious, so they had to be aggressive with chemo. I was fine on my first two sessions, but my third one really took its toll on me.”

She could not keep anything down and has since had to have a bag of medication with her wherever she goes. She had six sessions of chemo and doctors gave her a break. It was not until her second round of chemo started that she began to lose her hair.

“I was really trying to stay positive, and I am grateful for my support system. Then last month I started having issues with my liver and gall bladder. Thankfully it is not that the cancer has spread to my other organs.”

In addition to everything that Tshepi has had to go through in the last year, medical bills have been piling up. She has medical aid, but it is not covering everything she needs.

Read more | 7 things you need to know about breast cancer that may save your life this awareness month

“The medical aid paid for the basic things like chemo and the onchologist, but not everything like blood works, scans and going to the emergency room. Also, the medical aid only covers you for two Covid-19 tests a year, but every time you get admitted to hospital you need to do a Covid-19 test, so they do not pay for the rest.”

Her bills have now accumulated to a little over R54 000 and she has started a fundraising page, hoping to get donations towards her bills. Recently she received a bill to the tune of R16 000 and her medical aid only paid R413 of it.

“I would really like assistance with the medical bills so that I can focus on other things. Everything has just been so emotionally draining that I do not even have it in me to fight the medical aid for not paying. I just do not have the energy for that.

“Also, I cannot just go on a social media rant about them because I still need them to pay for the rest of my treatment because I am not cancer free yet. I want to beat this; I just do not want to be worried about money while I focus on my health.”

Her chronic cover is about R250 000 and it sounds like a lot, she says, but in reality it’s not.

“The hospital charges its own amount, then all the specialists do too. One single hospital stay can cost over R50 000. Also, the emergency unit does not charge the same about as the rest of the hospital and some specialists charge more that medical aid scheme rate as well,” she adds.

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