In case you missed the first episode…This month, in our #OwnYourBeautiful Series we’re celebrating unique divas whose sheer beauty radiates for all the world to see! We celebrate them for owning that though they may be different – that in no way means they’re any less. For standing firm in your beauty, and for fully owning your beautiful, we are truly inspired Divas! By Mutsa Margaret Gunda
Rejoice Utsiwegota Zvobgo was born in November 1989, she says she was born prematurely at 6months and spent 3months in an incubator. She’s excitedly waiting for her 29th birthday this year. Rejoice is a breast cancer survivor. She is a woman of faith and also has one of the most amazing attributes we love, a great sense of humour. She closes off this month’s series by sharing her story and journey.
Please tell us about yourself
I am a Chef at Rishworth House Prep School. I also have a catering company called ReeRee’s Healthy Hearty Foods. Cooking is one of my biggest passions. I recently got married to my best friend. I love kids and I have a daughter.
Please take us through your journey
I was diagnosed end of September 2016 when I was 26 going on 27. It all started with a lump I discovered in my right breast. It wasn’t painful at all so I did not see the need to seek medical help. Sometimes I actually played around with the lump (LOL). I did finally go to the doctor who referred me to a specialist Dr Nduku for a lumpectomy, I had a minor surgery which scared my family so much. A week after, results were ready for collection. The doctor told me that they had found a 2cm cancerous lump. The next step was a mastectomy meaning total removal of my right breast. Owing to my age the doctor was shocked that my reaction was quite calm. My calmness and lack of panic actually made him think I was in a state of shock because people usually react to life changing news in a dramatic manner. The whole family was scared, for a minute there you would have thought they had been diagnosed with cancer themselves.
Apart from being scared and shocked, how else did your family react?
My family was supportive, they didn’t hide their fear though. Being a last born child I got all the extra attention lol. On a more serious note my family stood together united in prayer and fasting, my brothers and sister in laws’ were there for me all the way. My mum exhibited a lot of strength as well. They made collective decisions which included settling for Professor Muguti to undertake the mastectomy. The situation was harder for my siblings such as my sister Jossie who was overseas since all the information she had was reported speech. During the period before the procedure I ate a lot, I suddenly had a gigantic appetite for food and I wouldn’t joking say in case of death, I wouldn’t want to be a hungry ghost.
We sometimes hear that Cancer is hereditary, do you have that history in your family?
No one else in my family had ever been diagnosed of Cancer. The cells I had were not genetic but hormone receptor positive. This means my body and hormones generated the cancer cells because of high oestrogen levels which help these cells to grow and spread. I honestly feel that once a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family needs counselling and education around this subject. You realise there is a lot that people don’t know from ignorance or other reasons.
Do you care to share how you felt both physically and emotionally during the treatment period?
After the operation ‘site’ healed I went to Oncocare for treatment. The staff there is amazing. I experienced side effects after the first cycle of treatment, these include throwing up all the time, sadly my grandmother passed away a day after treatment began I was too sick to attend her funeral. Two weeks later all the hair on my body started to fall out confident, I had to become bald and this was hard and it affected me, I felt like an Alien with no hair, no lashes, no eyebrows. I hated my sight in the mirror and avoided taking pictures. I had a total of 25 radio therapy sessions and a week after the last one blisters developed on the bruise and this was very painful. I hated my new body and it broke my heart when I realised my daughter was scared she would lose me. Being a mum actually gave me strength, when I didn’t feel strong for myself I became strong for my Keisha.
I stopped going to work. I had found a new friend in a fellow patient called V. Unfortunately she passed away after her last chemotherapy session. This broke me and it still makes me cry even today. For a moment I lost all hope and faith that I was going to be alright.
Rejoice in it all, where did you get the strength to face each new day?
I say this all the time, LOVE SAVED ME!!! I got my strength from God who also strengthened my family and close friends to support me as well as to pray for me. My friend and boyfriend Victor Douglas who is now my husband supported me throughout, he prayed for me and reminded me everyday that he loved me, he even had a bald haircut during the whole period, he didn’t look at me differently and he helped boost my confidence. My colleagues from Rishworth House Prep School were all so supportive. Cancer is a battle for both the patient and the people around her. Seeing all the fear in people’s faces.
However (smiling) We all thank God that on the 27th of September in 2017 this time I was given a new set of results. My body is free of Cancer cells. I still have to watch my diet and the new diet is really tough involving organic and traditional food. Haaaaa sometimes I cheat a little lol!
The Bible verse Isaiah 53 : 5 kept me going .
On this day I had a free make over from Vault Cosmetics.
Lastly, words of advice
I encourage people to take the necessary steps to know what’s going on in their bodies. Early detection saved my life because it increases the chances of successful treatment. Cancer screening is very important , early diagnosis for Cancer of the mouth, breast, cervix, larynx, colon, rectum and skin can. I also encourage other patients undergoing treatment to be strong and look into the future with hope, wear your scars proudly as well. When your hair and lashes fall out it shouldn’t make you less of the man or woman that you have always been. There is life after Cancer, having one breast hurts but there is so much more to celebrate in life, my hair is back and it is now naturally curly lol … My scars are evidence that I beat breast cancer. Mama I made it! Everytime you feel less of yourself do think about my story and pick yourself up…look at me now:
Thank you so much Rejoe!!!
Facebook: Rejoice N Zvobgo