FEEL GOOD | 23-year-old woman is cancer free after 12 chemo sessions, 5 scans and 4 surgeries

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Monica Sithole celebrates being cancer -free. Image supplied by Monica
Monica Sithole celebrates being cancer -free. Image supplied by Monica
  • Monica Sithole was diagnosed with haematological cancer in 2020 when she was 22 years old.
  • She started treatment and months later, she was declared cancer free.
  • It has taken nine months for her to share her story in the hope that it could help others in a similar situation.

When 23-year-old Monica Sithole was diagnosed with haematological (blood) cancer in 2020, she changed completely.

"I felt defeated because my diagnosis process was such a struggle with biopsies that kept coming back inconclusive, so by the time of my diagnosis I had already accepted my fate that I am about to embark on a life-changing journey," Monica says.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in July 2020, she was 22 and battling a life-threatening illness.

She kept it quiet. Only her family and close people in her life knew what was going on. Every day she had to affirm her life and promise to fight this cancer.

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Nine months after being cancer-free, Monica Sithole is confident enough to share her story. Image supplied by Monica

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Almost immediately after her diagnosis, she started treatment, beginning an exhausting and scary journey.

Monica had four different chemotherapy treatments - doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacin.

She was anxious about whether she would have to go for radiation treatment afterwards to burn off any residual cancer cells in the body after chemotherapy.

"Chemotherapy was already exhausting enough on its own, and I didn't want to go through another rollercoaster of a journey, being radiation," she says.

cancer, body, survivor, health, young woman
Monica Sithole believes that she can conquer anything after battling cancer. Image supplied by Monica

On 29 March 2021, Monica received great news. Her scan results were clear. 

Even though she couldn't understand the medical report, all she knew was "the report looked good", she jokes.

"I read the report myself. I was so happy and overwhelmed with emotion. I probably cried for a good 45 minutes before I could even tell anyone that I am cancer free," she says. 

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"I was just so glad and thankful that I can finally put the treatment chapter to rest. After I conquered this disease, I felt unstoppable, and I still feel that way now. I had promised myself that if I conquered that period in my life, then I would have no excuse to go after every dream that I've always had for myself," she says.

If I could get through such a difficult time with so much uncertainty, everything I want to do after that is little waters. This and the need to appreciate the small things in life and life itself, nothing beats a healthy life or a life well lived." 

cancer, body, survivor, health, young woman
Her journey has taught her so much about life and herself. Image supplied by Monica

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Nine months after she became cancer free, she gained the confidence to share her journey on social media, but she admits it was challenging.

"I kept asking myself about how I could use what I went through to help others. I was also trying to recover mentally and physically from the trauma I experienced before and during the treatment. Hence I am only comfortable talking about it now.

"Plus, I am also a very private person, so I knew that I had to be very sure if I want to share my journey because that essentially puts me on a public platform, and I need to be ready for that," she adds.

The more she shared her story, the more she realised that young people weren't informed about cancer.

"Cancer can happen to anyone, whether you are fit, eat healthily or whatever you do, as well as the fact that there may not even be a history of cancer in your family [like with me]. 

health, cancer, young woman, fighter
Monica Sithole celebrates being cancer -free. Image supplied by Monica

"Sharing my story would create that platform for patients, who are not comfortable publicising what they are going through, to reach out to me so that I can make a safe space for them to discuss whatever they are going through with someone who has walked the journey and fought the fight before. However, no growth takes place in comfort zones," she says.

"I have received positive feedback from people who have interacted with my posts and from friends just celebrating my life and bravery, which means a lot to me because I had to force myself to be brave throughout this experience. There was no other alternative."

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Monica says her family and her close friends have been amazing and that they support her tremendously.

"What kept me going was my family, to be quite honest.

"My family was my biggest support system, so that kept me going, as well as the fact that there is just so much I would like to do for my family, so I still need to be alive to do all of that. The nurses and the doctor treating me also did a great job of encouraging me. Meeting other patients at the chemo clinic who had been diagnosed with the same type of cancer that I had and who had been receiving treatment for it, also kept me going," she adds. 

cancer, body, survivor, health, young woman
She looks forward to living blissfully and sharing her story with others. Image supplied by Monica

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There are many people secretly fighting battles, and they have lost hope.

"These battles will become a part of your life as some or most of them are long term, but it should remain just that, a part of your life. Don't allow it to take over your whole life, and it is important to remember that you are not living for the specific illness or disease you are living despite it," she tells us. 

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