No need to battle alone

Jenny October, 58, from The Leagues, had her left breast removed.

A Westridge grandmother attended cancer support group meetings to do line dancing and meet friends.

Jean Smith, 72, who lives at Yvonne Parfitt Retirement Village, was in Johannesburg, visiting her brother who was diagnosed with stage four cancer almost six years ago, when her niece, who is a doctor, convinced her and her sister-in-law to go for mammograms, an X-ray of the breasts.

Her sister-in-law had fallen and hurt her breast, which she had complained about.

“I wasn’t in any pain and I didn’t feel any lumps, although years ago they found lumps but they were benign,” she said.

Her maternal aunt, who had had breast cancer, died 12 years ago after a double mastectomy, the surgical removal of one or both breasts. Ms Smith also lost a paternal uncle to cancer of the liver, when she was a teenager.

“It didn’t hit me immediately. I just thought: ‘Oh well, it is just a lump’. After they told me I joked with my brother they could buy me wigs for Christmas,” she said.

On Monday August 28 a biopsy – during which a doctor cuts out some of the tissue – was done and two weeks later, a diagnosis of breast cancer was confirmed.

She was given referral letters to attend LE 33 at Groote Schuur Hospital for further treatment, where it was decided that the lump in her right breast should be removed next month.

Speaking to the Plainsman at a weekly Cansa Westridge support group meeting on Wednesday October 18, Ms Smith said having been with the group before diagnosis had been a great encouragement to her.

“I’m just starting my journey. A lot of it is unknown to me and my family. It is difficult to say how I am going to cope,” she said.