Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A story of hope: Lebani’s journey with salivary gland cancer

The first words that Lebani uttered the moment she was diagnosed with cancer were, “Excuse me, what?” Nothing could have prepared her feelings when the doctor diagnosed her with salivary gland cancer in July 2014. She recalls the fateful day that a normal dental check-up turned into a nightmare as a tumor was discovered between her top and bottom last teeth.      

There are two main classifications of tumors. One is known as benign and the other as malignant. Benign is used to describe both medical conditions and tumors, and usually refers to a process that’s not especially dangerous. Benign tumors also take time to grow in size, it can take years for one to grow an inch plus, whereas, malignant tumors are specified as dangerous and cancerous. These tumors experience a rapid growth. They can grow within a few weeks excessively. 

Lebani says she is proud of herself for having undergone a biopsy surgery. “I am proud of myself, I went through a simple procedure without whining or complaining. It took not more than thirty minutes for the numbing medication to have worn out and left me in throbbing pain,’ Lebani revealed. The cut-off piece was taken for tests to check if indeed the tumor was benign or malignant. A few days later, Lebani was called in for her results. 

Anticipation reigned in the doctor’s room that morning as Lebani, alongside her parents, anxiously waited for her results to be put out clear for them. Applying her well trained skills on how to announce devastating news to patients, her doctor spilled what was probably the last thing Lebani ever wanted to hear. Her tumor was malignant!

‘I was not convinced. I asked the doctor to read out the contents of the laboratory result sheet, and he did. It didn’t change anything,’ says Lebani. After the devastating announcement, she was then transferred to the Oncology wing of the hospital, which then became her new home along other cancer patients.

Lebani then underwent a two month radiation and chemotherapy treatment from October ÔÇô December 2014 in South Africa, which she considers the most painful two months of her life. During the period she was receiving treatment in South Africa, Lebani could not feed herself. Nothing could pass through her mouth which was being burnt every day. She had to be fed through a drip. “I was on Ensure supplement for 3 months, not eating any other food. I came back home in December and was recovering well until June 2015 when I went for a scan and found that although most of the disease was gone, there was still some left. I went back for radiation, for a month this time, high doses once a week,” she says, adding “I am hopeful and will keep fighting if need be.” 

Lebani’s family has been her anchor throughout the journey. “My family and friends supported me and I am forever grateful for that. The fight against Cancer actually made me a stronger being; I appreciate everyday that I can smile, that I can put food in my mouth. Once those small things are taken away from you, you realise how important they are. My family is also stronger because of this,” she emphasised. 

“My biggest message is the one that kept me going throughout “H.O.P.E= Hold On, Pain Ends. Everytime I felt like giving up I would look at those 4 simple words and keep fighting. I am urging anyone who is in such a conundrum to hold on because all pain ends. If you have been given the opportunity to deal with it, please do. We go through tough situations in order to become stronger!” Lebani said. 

Lebani recently published a book titled ‘FACING CANCER FROM UNDER A MASK’ detailing her discovery, occurrence and obscure journey of being a salivary gland cancer patient. Her emotions and thoughts unfold through this well mantled, written piece. 

“I wish to capture the 12 months that changed my life’s course in a remarkable way! But I also wish to send the message that tough situations do pass! Tough situations are only a test. Tough situations make tough people. I wish to give readers the message of H.O.P.E. It may be disease inflicted pain, or social hardships, relationship hardships… Keep your head above the water and KEEP fighting! Make sure you come out of every situation a winner,” she concludes. 

Copies of her book can be purchased at Exclusive books, Riverwalk mall and Troy pharmacy, Square mart mall for only P36. 

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