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is life beyond cancer: Interview with Sabina Mano
April 30, 2012
with Sabina Mano
is life beyond cancer." These are the wise words of experience
spoken by Sabina Mano, a woman who has recently battled cancer and
lived to tell her story. Cancer is one of the leading causes of
death globally, and ranks right up there with the likes of HIV and
malaria as a leading cause of death in Zimbabwe. With minimal awareness
of cancer in Zimbabwe, the disease is often shrouded in mystery
and superstition. Sabina Mano's story puts a local name and
face to cervical cancer and will hopefully dispel myths and misconceptions
surrounding the disease, as well as give hope to cancer patients
and their loved ones.
Read on to learn
about this inspiring survivor.
are the different roles you play in society?
The protocol is God, family, others, so my family comes first. And
then, at the moment, I'm starting a new NGO, but before that I was
working for an international NGO as the Admin and HR Manager. I
was also a pastor at Celebration Church. I was also involved with
St. Joseph's Orphanage.
I got cancer in 2009. I had cervical cancer, which spread to the
bladder. So, out of the cancer came the NGO - JC Foundation Trust.
What I'm doing at the moment is assisting patients who are on social
welfare, who cannot buy chemotherapy drugs. Our NGO is going to
focus on awareness and treatment. On awareness, we want to make
even more noise than is made about HIV, because we want early detection
of cancer, especially in the rural community. In JC, we've got a
nurse who works in the oncology ward. Whenever we have an outreach
programme, he joins us to talk to patients. And we've got three
experienced counsellors, who are on standby. We've got a doctor,
who is still in training, who is actually part of the organisation.
It's still in its initial stages, but we are out there.
think enough is being done to raise awareness about cancer? Where
are some of the gaps?
I think the government, as we speak, is in the process of structuring
an awareness document, which will cover 2012 to 2015, but it is
still in its early stages. So currently there is very little awareness
in Zimbabwe, this is why we want to go out there with a bang and
really inform people about cancer. What it is, different types of
cancers, the signs, the symptoms, what to look out for, and where
to go once you see the symptoms. This is where the gaps are. And
the other concern that we have is that there are not enough machines
to treat cancer patients in Zimbabwe. We only have one machine,
which half the time is not working. But I was told that they have
purchased three radiotherapy machines, which are coming.
are some of the misconceptions you are encountering with regard
It depends on where you are. If you go to the rural folk some reasons
they give for cancer are somebody has bewitched them. Nobody has
told them the signs and symptoms. In the towns, you can easily convince
somebody to go for a test. But they cannot afford to, because it
is done at private clinics. You cannot walk into a government hospital
and say, "I need to have a Pap smear done". So maybe
we need to lobby for that.
talk about your personal experience with cancer. Before you got
cancer, did you ever think it would happen to you?
Never. It never even crossed my mind. I was not a candidate for
cancer. But, that's what we all think, until you're
told, "This is it". Because once you hear, "She's
got cancer," that was like a death sentence, you know. I went
to my doctor, and then he says, "Let's do a pap smear".
So I went back for my results in January and he says, "This
is cancer. Let's remove the uterus and you'll be fine."
He operated on me on a Saturday. He only came back on Thursday.
He says, "It's actually worse. You are riddled with
cancer. I did not even remove the uterus. I just opened you up and
closed you up. It's that bad!" I cried my heart out.
I was really inconsolable. And then on the Friday I thought, "It's
my body with cancer, not my spirit". So when the doctor came
back he found me smiling. So, even when I told my husband, he's
the one who cried. I was strong. When I told my sister, she was
the one who cried. I was strong, because I got my strength from
the Lord. You fight cancer in your mind. If you just give up in
your mind then you're depressed and you can't fight
it. The treatment is very harsh, but if your mind is strong and
if you have got a reason to live, you will go through all the 6
I only discovered
this year that you are supposed to be under anaesthetic to have
brachytherapy. When I was in South Africa, we were not under any
anesthetic. They would just do it to you as you are. So they would
insert these steel rods in you, and then they would switch on the
machine for 20 minutes. And then they would remove them. It was
so painful. I could see some of the patients I was with giving up,
saying, "I'm not going back". You need to be positive
and know that you can get through it.
did you feel about not being able to get treatment here and having
to leave Zimbabwe?
It was the only thing that could be done then because there was
no radiotherapy machine; there was no chemo in Zimbabwe. So for
one to be able to have cancer and survive, you had to leave the
country. And it wasn't cheap. This is why my heart bleeds
for those on social welfare. It is very important to support those
who can't afford to buy medication. It's very close
to my heart.
mother, how did the cancer affect your ability to do the things
you wanted to do?
I tried not to make this cancer become an issue because I didn't
want it to be the centre of my life. I didn't want the pity-party
saying "Oh I'm sorry." When I came back from South
Africa, I went back to work. I made sure I put in as much input
as a worker and as a mother, that there was no difference. I didn't
want to use the cancer as an excuse because when I came back I didn't
feel any pain. I wasn't afraid of anything. I just picked
up where I left off, and I moved on. I think it's a choice
you make, realising that your children, your husband, your friends
are all looking at you saying, "What next?" Then they
realise, life goes on.
are some of the challenges you faced as a cancer patient?
The cancer had gotten really advanced; stage 4b, and the doctor
said he's going to be very harsh. On a daily basis I'd
get radiotherapy. And then every Thursday, I'd get chemo.
So I got a lot of chemo. If you get a lot of chemo cycles, it affects
your mind. You become forgetful. You're not as sharp as you
were. Even when you vomit, you feel like it's coming from
your head. At times you feel a part of you has been removed. You
don't feel the same. But with time it comes back. For those
six months, you don't eat as much. So, your body is not nourished,
your mind is attacked by this chemo. You get your chemo on Thursday
and you start vomiting Thursday night. Friday, you vomiting; Saturday,
you're vomiting; Sunday, you can eat an apple; Monday, it's
okay, Tuesday, you're eating; Wednesday, you're eating,
Thursday you start all over again. For six moths you are like that.
So you're not eating. You are just upset. Yeah, it affects
your brain. You live with a memory loss. (Laughs).
words of advice and encouragement for those currently battling cancer?
There is life beyond cancer. You can be diagnosed today and say
"Oh my God, this is the end!" but it's not. With
God on your side, and if you do what the doctors tell you to do,
you'll pull through.
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