Treatment No. 09 Done & Dusted

It’s the 4th of September and as of 2 days ago mom has just completed her 9th treatment… Boy has she come far!

In the weeks leading up to this, we’ve seen some pretty good days and some God awful ones. I’ve seen her cry in pain and I’ve also seen her fight to keep the normalcy in her life. I’ve seen her bicker with us (her immediate family) out of frustration, and I’ve also witness her get emotional out of appreciation, simply because I tucked her into bed one afternoon.

She’s lost her hair.
She’s lost weight  (I’m not happy to report that, she didn’t have much to begin with).
She battles to keep food down.
The nausea has been insane.
She feels weak to the point that she blacks out.
Her body aches most days, and
She worries that her complexion has particularly darkened.
But the warrior is still standing!!!!

Since my last post, mom’s blood count dropped significantly… Whilst this is not what we hope for, as your blood count need to be 10 and above – it’s also proof that chemo is doing its job.
Added to her already long list of meds on a Friday, is this Cocoa-cola resembling drip called Valifer (pretty certain I’ve spelt this incorrectly), used to up your blood count…. which means it’s also taken her usual treatment of about 3.5 hours up to 5.5 / 6 hours. She is one of the first patients to arrive and literally the last one to leave… we often joke with the staff that we’ll just lock up the premises for them whilst we’re at it.

This week my parents and I visited the company my mom works for. Since her diagnosis, she has been put off from work … Yes, I am aware that many people work and still take chemo or radiation.. however my mom works for a medical waste company. Being in that environment and coupled with the fact that she’s the type of person with an incredibly weak immune system and that her treatments are weekly, putting her off work until her chemo and surgery is complete seemed the only fitting option.
Now back to our visit to Compass Waste Medical Services… It was an incredibly emotional visit for mom. Many may not realise this, but she misses work terribly.. so to visit her “Compass Family” really hit home. How cute it was to see them throw her a mini tea party… the love and support we witnessed was pretty awesome.

That’s the thing about tough times… it shows you the true nature of those around you hey. I’ve personally witnessed the amount of genuine and sheer love and support my mother has received. I’ve also seen the lack of empathy from people she’s once considered close to her. In fact in certain situations I’ve seen more care and affection from strangers than from people she’s had relationships with for decades. This week I’ve realised that whilst many may know the ins and outs of cancer, not many will grasp the emotion behind it… and I guess being on the inside, I’ve taken knowing this for granted. Yes unfortunately we live in a time where cancer isn’t a foreign concept, its now a word mentioned in most homes … but just because it’s become as common as the common cold, it doesn’t take away from the fight a cancer patient has to put up.. so I will forever be thankful to those who have shown my mother and every other cancer patient out there love, support and kindness.


A Face Of Hope 

This is Brandin… A face of hope to all at the Durban Oncology Centre.. After 46 weeks of Chemotherapy & surgery, he’s officially Cancer Free!!!

Brandin is the perfect example to highlight the heartbreaking reality that cancer does not discriminate… it knows no age, gender or colour. On moms very first chemo, it was Brandin she drew the most inspiration from, they spoke for ages about his journey thus far… it broke her heart to know this guy has been receiving treatment from March last year, to her “he’s too young to have to go through this” but she looked forward to seeing him every week. 

After 46 weeks, a party was definitely in order… 

Nurse Wendy and Dr Reddy with Brandin

The nurses of Durban Oncology

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi


Five posts down and I’ve just realised that I have not told you anything about mom’s treatment as yet… Apologies, I shall rectify that now.

If you’ve read the post entitled “How it all began”, you will know that mom is currently undergoing treatment at the Durban Oncology Centre.. And I’m thrilled to say that this past Friday, we officially hit the half way mark. 6 down and 6 to go!!! 

When you walk through the doors of the Durban Oncology Centre, you are greeted by some of the friendliest personalities at reception. There’s this sense of familiarity …and definitely a sense of importance.

Our next stop… The Lancet Laboratories. It is standard practice that before every chemo treatment, a blood count needs to be done. Basically to see if your body is capable of handling the treatment. Now if you know my mom, you’ll know that she hates needles nor can see stomach the sight of blood. Thank goodness for sister Anne… Every week this petite blonde does an amazing job of distracting my mom whilst taking her blood. Whether it’s making us laugh with her her pretty awesome sense of humor or telling us about herself – suffice to say, every week we look foward to our interactions with sister Anne… well minus the needle of course.

The Chemo Suite …. Have you ever been on the inside of a Chemotherapy suite?  One would think this is a place filled with dread, doom and gloom…after all they are asking you to lay down whilst they fill you up with toxic drugs that are meant to make you feel anything but a million dollars… but believe it or not, this is the place where my mom smiles the most.                                 A room filled with reclining chairs, the warmest/ softest blankets (I imagine this is what a polar bear must feel like) and three of the funniest and welcoming nurses, Wendy, Angel and Sumeshnie. Whilst you are a patient here, you aren’t treated like you have this so called dread disease … You’re treated like a member of the family. It is in this room that you meet people from all walks of life, hear the most laughter and come to realisation that you’re not alone… there is someone going through the same thing you are, be it as a patient or a caregiver.

Over the last six weeks, we’ve met some amazing individuals, who we have gathered inspiration from as well as learnt so much from. I’m certain the next 6 weeks will be just as eventful.

Knowing that she has just hit the half way mark…I can’t help but look at how far we’ve come and I can’t help but smile at the sense of pride I feel. You see my mom went into this, questioning and doubting how she would manage every step of the way. She would have this tendency to think 50 steps ahead, and assume the worst. But I guess that’s normal…Cancer is usually deemed the worst case scenario to most. 

She didn’t think she could handle Chemotherapy, but she’s just completed her 6th treatment which means she has been handling it! She couldn’t bare the thought of her hair falling, guess what – she’s handling that too! Whilst it’s most certainly has not been sunshine and rainbows for her in these last few weeks, she’s courageously taken all that’s thrown at her in her stride…. and I have nothing but admiration for her.

Cancer a gift? … Seriously?

Lets talk about this for a moment … Cancer..a gift? Really?..  That does not sound right.. That doesn’t sound even a tad bit logical to be honest.. How do you consider this dread disease a gift? A gift is supposed to be something you look forward to, something which is meant to make you happy… one pictures a pretty little package, all neatly wrapped in paper which is usually way too expensive to begin with. If this is a gift… Dear God may we please exchange it?! 

I personally could never view this as a gift… how do you look on at that trails your loved one faces, and think they have been blessed with a gift…That was my line of thinking until I had the privilege of recently speaking to a cancer survivor, the mother of my mom’s dear friend, which made me question the plausibility of this “gift” notion.

This petite elderly woman, rocking her short grey hair and wearing one of the warmest smiles you’ll ever see, spoke about having had cancer as if it was the best thing that happened to her. She referred to it as her gift. This by no means implies that she had an easy time, in fact this woman has had more than her fair share of trials and tribulations health wise. Yet she exudes nothing but sheer positivity. 

During her visit, she never offered my mom any tips or tricks to get around the side effects that the dreaded Chemotherapy leaves behind, but rather stories of hope. Stories of how far she as well as other survivors have come. The part which stands out the most, is when she told my mom that cancer will change her – she will not be the same person by the end of it. That God doesn’t give this “gift” to everyone… When he needs you to grow, he allows us to go through certain circumstances, so at the end of it we have the experience to continue helping others.

That made me wonder, what if God is allowing all of this to happen for a greater purpose… To allow her to extend her helping hand to even more people. Could it be to bring this prayer warrior that much closer to him. Still though, the process doesn’t seem quite fair & I am still not done questioning, why her?!

Whether or not cancer will ever be considered a gift in this house, that’s yet to be determined. In the mean time, I can positively report that not all days are dark and gloomy. That despite my hatred towards stupid Cancer, thus far it’s been quite the teacher. It’s taught us to slow down…well some of us that is. It’s taught my mom patience and the ability to pace her once busy-body self. It’s taught us that it is ok to cry – your family has got your back. It’s taught us to how to communicate…. and most importantly, it’s taught us to appreciate the little moments in life.

With hope, the odds don’t matter.

*Singing* “I Am Not My Hair “

One of the first questions out my mom’s mouth when she was diagnosed was, “Am I going to lose my hair?” 

The loss of hair is possibly the trademark of any cancer patient. Losing ones hair because of Chemotherapy or radiation can be nothing less than an emotional experience…and understandably so, after all, we are connected to our external image. The way we look unfortunately often links to our identity itself. 

We live in a time in which the media tells us that woman have hair… hair that should be thick, long and simply perfect. It’s supposed to be soft, never messy and most certainly not grey! We’re all supposed to be young, vibrant and healthy…and the same goes for our hair. But I reject this… hair loss due to cancer treatment should not be viewed as a stamp of sickness. Yes, we cannot deny the reality of cancer, but cancer will not dictate who we are and who we are not.

As mom grows apprehensive about losing her hair, I often find myself telling her “mom it’s just hair – it will grow back”. Whilst many may think it’s easy for me to say that, it’s in fact quite the opposite. I completely understand that her beautiful thick hair (which often attracts many admirers) means the world to her… that a woman’s hair is part and parcel of the way she defines her femininity. But ultimately – we are not our hair. Her beauty lies in that smile…the smile that could make anyone’s day. 

This reminded me of the song by India Arie – I am not my hair. Seems aptly appropriate right now..

A little excerpt:

Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy
Took away her crown and glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy everyday of her life ooh
On national television
Her diamond eyes are sparkling
Bald headed like a full moon shining
Singing out to the whole wide world like HEY…

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

Watch “India.Arie – I Am Not My Hair ft. Akon” on YouTube 

Meet Zak

God couldn’t be physically with us so he gave us dogs… & notice how Dog spelt backwards is God & they both give us unconditional love!!!

Meet Zak, my 5 year old Golden Retriever. He is the baby of the Singh household, the 3rd child to be exact. Yes, my parents refer to Zak as their youngest child and the term “dog” is not used in this home.

This four legged giant teddy bear has brought our family together in a way words won’t do justice. In retrospect, no bad day is entirely bad when he is around. He will make your sides hurt with laughter with his little antics, or he will offer you a comforting cuddle when your spirits need lifting.

Such was the case when mom was diagnosed… As with any family, hearing a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer often leaves your mind reeling with an array of emotions. Mom was distraught to say the least… the shock of the news had left her crying for greater part of the afternoon.. and no one could blame her. Zak stayed by her bedside the entire time, looking on reassuringly with those big Brown eyes. He then did something so profound, something my family and I will never forget. He got up from his spot, walked over to mom’s side of the bed where he climbed up and leaned his head against her chest and just stared at her. 

This will forever be classified as one of my most priceless and cherished memories.

When I needed a hand, I found your paw.

How did it start…

I think it’s important to provide some context here..  a little background and insight into the woman I’m so passionately routing for. 

My mom – Sagrie, a 52 year old beautiful and gentle soul. A dedicated worker and a devoted mother. She’s pretty tiny in size, but like the saying goes “dynamite comes in small packages”…She’ll kick your butt into gear if need be. She’s got this smile that makes your day and she’s always got something encouraging to say to you. Though when you look at her, it’s difficult to believe she’s 52… she’s aged so darn well, and between you and I – I’m sure praying I inherit her genes and can look at least half as good as she does, should I make it to her age. She gets hit on by guys half her age…that right there is goals I tell you. 

So how did this all begin… Here’s a summary of events leading up to this point.

  1. In May 2016, a routine mammogram led to discovery of suspicious nodes. A biopsy would be required.
  2. A biopsy was done at the Just For Woman Digital Mammography Centre – Lakesmith and Partners in Overport, Durban. My mom has the utmost admiration for the staff.
  3. After 48 hours, the results were conclusive – She had breast cancer.
  4. Following which, a consultation with an oncologist was needed. Dr Lucille Heslop and partners at the Durban Oncology Centre advised that our first priority would be a PET Scan. 
  5. PET/CT SCAN – Done at the  Jackparsad and Partners, a scan which requires you to be starved of sugar and carbs 24 hours before the scan. On the day off, a small amount of radioactive glucose is then injected into the patient. In simple terms – cancerous cells love sugar and require it more than normal cells, hence this small amount of radioactive glucose will travel to the cancerous cells, allowing the scan to pin point the exact location and size of the tumor.
  6. Following the results.. treatment was decided. 12 rounds of Chemotherapy, surgery and a further 5.
  7. We are now in our 4th week of treatment. 

Emotions ran high during the first few weeks … the not knowing was driving her crazy. As most cancer patients will say, it’s the feeling of not having control over your body that gets to you the most – and this was precisely the case for my mom. She seeked empowerment through education, the more she read about all that was ahead of her, the more her mind adjusted to “I can handle this”.

    Here’s a photo of her, during happier times. 


    Chances are, cancer has touched you in one way or another in your lifetime. Whether you are one of the 12.7 million people diagnosed with cancer or you know of someone who has been diagnosed, we all are well versed with the challenges that cancer brings and all the courage and strength it takes to get through it.

    It’s very aptly said that cancer doesn’t have a face until it’s yours or someone you know… how true it is for my family. After seeing my grandmother battel and conquer breast cancer, only to later be diagnosed with spine cancer… one would think that the news of my mother’s diagnoses of breast cancer would be received in a manner that was less than earth shattering… However such was not the case. After all cancer is cancer. That dreaded “c” word turned her world upside down. It turned all of our world’s upside down. 

    My mom.. my rock, the glue that holds our family together and a prayer warrior to say the least..She’s the strongest person I know. I often say out loud that if I could be half the woman she is, I would be happy … So why her God? After all that she has been through…Why her??? The news of her diagnosis wasn’t received well by me, but this wasn’t about me – it’s now my turn to be strong for the woman who has carried me through all my ups and downs, victories and defeats. I’m now entrusted with the task of being a “cancer caregiver” … and if there is one thing you learn very early – your emotions need to be in check. You are in charge of creating and maintaining a positive environment, one that facilitates healing. 

    However watching your loved one brave the difficulties which lie ahead of them and the toll which treatment takes on their body, often leaves us in a helpless and frustrated state. So this blog is just my own form of therapy.. to maintain my sanity… putting your feelings into words is said to be helpful and if someone happens to read this, than so be it.