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The thing about cancer…

THERE is a finality that comes with a cancer diagnosis. And that plants a seed of fear.

When you’re hit or cut by an object you feel the pain immediately and get medical attention there and then. But not so with cancer, it sneaks up on you months or years before you even know you have it. You’re sick, but you get treated only for symptoms, yet the tumour will be increasing in size.

When the diagnosis comes, it feels more like it’s the end because the sickness came before the diagnosis, making the diagnosis feel like a death warrant.

It’s the fear of the unknown that has paralysed most of us; hence we avoid screening because no one wants to face a specialist who breaks the cancer news to them.

Again, even after diagnosis, there comes a mourning and grief phase. To go or not to go for treatment becomes the big question. Therein floods the myths around cancer treatment.

Some have decided that chemotherapy automatically means you’re going to die. And, as for radiotherapy, it’s even worse. Whoever translated “radiotherapy” to say “kupiswa,” in Shona made a blunder. Patients have taken the word literally and decline treatment because they assume they’re going to be literally set alight.

Of the 1 848 breast cancer diagnoses in 2020, 924 deaths were recorded, a 50 percent mortality rate. Sadly, some of those diagnosed did not receive treatment, for mostly financial reasons. So, as we don our pink ribbons, pink clothes, pink hairstyles, and colour everything pink, let us make sure that breast cancer awareness is more than the colour pink, more than the beautiful pink company logo, and more than the marathon held to raise awareness on cancer. Regrettably, the majority of us who do the “pink” marathons have never gone for screening, let alone done self-examination. We are afraid of the unknown, but what is “the unknown”?

Let awareness be real awareness, laden more with useful information and messages that go beyond the #earlydetectioncansavelives. Let’s talk about treatment options after diagnosis; let’s give hope and dispel fear.

Here’s to supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honouring the taken and to never giving up hope.

by Marlene Chiedza Gadzirayi

Gadzirayi is a cancer survivor.