Using My Voice as a Childhood Cancer Survivor

I never thought having cancer would turn out like this, both my struggles and accomplishments have shaped who I am. Today, I’m a 23-year-old, two-time childhood cancer survivor. 

At the age of 16, a table fell on my left leg at school and that’s when my symptoms began, pain, swelling, the lump, and the loss of mobility. My life changed in a blink of an eye and I moved from being an active, loud teenager to a reserved immobile one. My parents luckily had medical aid and I kept going to a private doctor who for 6 months did not know what was wrong with me. An X-ray was done and later revealed I had a black mass under my knee which my doctor thought was dry blood. As my health deteriorated over time, I was taken to GPH a year later. There I was diagnosed after a CT scan revealed that I had GCT (Giant Cell Bone Tumour).

Giant Cell Bonebone Tumour or GCT, is a cancer that affects long bones in the body such as the spine, legs, arms, and hips. This cancer occurs in active youth from the age of 13 estimated up to 30 and is very hard to detect. It has no cure but has the possibility of being removed with surgery.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Imagine a 14-year-old teenager living in Tumasera, Botswana going through what I went through without medical aid. 

  • Would they be taken seriously going to the only clinic in that area complaining about knee pain?
  • Would the assumption be they don’t want to go to school and are seeking attention?
  • Would they be screened for cancer?
  • Would that be the first thought in your mind?

All those questions receive a “No” answer because we have a big problem in this country, there is no cancer education at schools, besides it being briefly mentioned in Biology. The whole concept around cancer is that it is sorcery and this is not true, cancer is real, it has the ability to affect anyone, and our community needs to be educated on this very real disease. 

I had a 5 kg tumor removed, I was on treatment and I thought I was beating it but the cancer was not done with me. Three months later after I turned 17, I was sick all over again, I had an MRI and 4 tumors were found. My medical aid was exhausted, and I hit rock bottom. At 17 I had cancer again, with no hope. My resilient father found a program the government has put in place called Health Share,  which takes patients outside the country for treatment since it’s unavailable here in Botswana.

Luckily, I got signed as one of the patients and had my prosthesis operation in April of 2015 and 6 months later, I was finally cancer-free.

I am not writing this or talking about my story to change my life alone. I am here to talk for the children whose cancer could be detected late, and those who do not know of the programs the government has in place; therefore leaving young individuals hopeless, about to lose their lives. I am here to open the eyes of the African community to realize that cancer is not a white people disease, an old people disease, witchcraft, or bad luck but rather a disease that is taking the lives of many and testing our faith.

The journey I went through, I would never wish it on anyone else. If my story could help at least one cancer sufferer know that there is finally hope, my purpose would be fulfilled. 

Let us not let others suffer in silence. 

Let us not let others feel that they are alone. Let us not let others drop out of school just to seek medical care which could have been accessed here in Botswana.

Let us shine a light of love, strength, and union.

If at least you can touch one person’s life a day, imagine how many people you would have given hope by the end of the year. I am a living testimony that cancer can be beaten. Not only once but twice. To my fellow cancer sufferers, survivors, and to those who know someone with cancer I am your voice. I made it. I’m studying Events Management, I have a company, I am a cancer activist, and am a motivational speaker.

Though depression came with cancer, I am proud to state that I am still strong as ever. I beat cancer wearing pink boxing gloves that I shall never hang up and let gather dust. Let us not allow others to hang up their boxing gloves too, the fight will always be continuous but we will keep it up, we are strong, we are survivors, cancer will not defeat us. 

I may not be medically alright at the moment, due to the fact that I have just returned to Botswana from undergoing my 3rd operation; where 6 procedures were done on my leg to assist me to walk better as cancer damaged my left leg, but that does not stop me from fighting more and more every day.


Photo courtesy of the author.