‘I take each day as it comes’

Rokeyia Johnson, 58, from Tafelsig, has stage 4 lung cancer and Gadija Adonis, 65, from Westridge, is in remission.

No two cancers are alike and this cannot be more true than is illustrated by the stories of two Mitchell’s Plain women, who belong to the same support group in Westridge.

Rokeyia Johnson, 58, from Tafelsig, who has stage 4 lung cancer and Gadija Adonis, 65, from Westridge, who is in remission, meet once a month at Westridge library hall to talk about their well-being and seek help and advice from fellow cancer patients and survivors.

Together with the support group they will be rendering an item at the annual Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Mitchell’s Plain Relay for Life event, at Stephen Reagan Sportsfield on Friday March 2.

Ms Johnson was diagnosed with lung cancer at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital on December 18 in 2016, after she had complained of shortness of breath and a raised heart rate.

Six-months later she underwent a lung biopsy, during which samples of lung tissue were removed with a special biopsy needle.

“You have to lie still. Don’t move when the needle goes in.

“O dit is baie seer,” she said.

Ms Johnson was referred for chemotherapy at Groote Schuur Hospital’s ward LE34 last year and has just spent two weeks at hospice for pain management and to rest.

Hospice care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialised medical and nursing care for people with life-limiting illnesses.

They attend to a patient’s pain and symptoms, and as well as their emotional and spiritual needs.

Cansa’s Rene Petersen clarified that patients and caregivers who need a rest can also be referred to hospice.

“It is not just for patients who are on their last,” she said.

Ms Petersen said patients had access to various services, including a social worker.

Once a week a hospice sister visits Ms Johnson, who is on morphine.

“I can’t make up a bed and I’m tired every day,” she said.

“I take each day as it comes,” said Ms Johnson.

She said her husband was very helpful in that he prepared breakfast and lunch for her and allowed her to rest.

Ms Adonis said family support and love were key to a patient’s recovery and survival.

“I am often told I look good for a cancer survivor and the trick is to remain positive, eat well and exercise,” she said.

“Your mind must be clear. I put my cancer in the hands of Allah and I never looked back,” she said.

Her cancer was caught early and her treatment included surgery, during which the cancer was cut out of her lung.

Within months of being diagnosed, she was declared clear of cancer in 2011.

Ms Adonis said she did not cough up blood but, on December 20 in 2010, she had found blood when she wiped her mouth during fajr, early morning prayers.

When it happened again in February, she kicked the habit of smoking close to 20 cigarettes a day.

The cancer was successfully removed from her left lung on May 7 in 2011.

Her sister died of lung cancer in 2016, and their mother, who would have been in her 80s today, died of womb cancer.

Ms Adonis is one of the founding members of the Westridge support group, which was started five years ago in Westridge clinic.

“I was just sitting at home but since the group I meet new people and I can offer advice,” she said.

Cansa Relay for Life Mitchell’s Plain will be taking place at Stephen Reagon sports field, from 6pm on Friday March 2 until 6am on Saturday March 3.

The event unites cancer survivors and the communities that care about them by forming relay teams to continuously circle a track for 18 to 24 hours because, they say, cancer neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Relay teams of 10 to 15 members may enter at a cost R750.

For more information and to participate, call Saadiqa Abrahams on 061 494 1413 or Leatitia Jordaan on 082 952 7797.