1. DR THANDEKA MAZIBUKO, 38
Registrar, Radiation Oncology Department,
Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital
Growing up in the rural KwaZulu-Natal region of
KwaNyuswa, I was faced with many challenges.
I was raised by my domestic worker mother,
and the journey to qualify as a medical doctor
wasn’t an easy one. My main drive for working
in oncology was that many people in my
community didn’t know what it was and
didn’t have access to medical services.
These days we hear about breast
cancer survivors, yet we never hear
people speaking about those who
have no idea what this disease
is all about. I once told a patient
that she had breast cancer
and she laughed in my face. She
then told me that only white people
get it. That was definitely something
that rang my alarm bells. Through my NGO,
Sinomusonothando Community Development,
I’ve created a bridge between the medical
system and those who often don’t have access
to or benefit from it. We do free screenings
on weekends, among other things.
In the province of KZN, only three
hospitals specialise in cancer. They’re all in
Durban, so if you live far away, getting there is a
problem. A rural woman will have to use public
transport, on a long journey to Durban, which
is often uncomfortable – but that’s the only
way she can get assistance. Whoever originally
designed the system didn’t have my mother, who
represents women living in rural areas, in mind.
As doctors we need to stand up together
and advocate for rural patients. Some of these
women sit at home with the disease and either
don’t know about it, or are delayed in receiving
treatment. One of the biggest challenges in rural
communities is chemotherapy – and how can it
be effective on a hungry stomach? There are just
so many issues that still need to be tackled.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with about
60 students from the University of KwaZulu-
Natal’s Medical School campus, and they’re so
amazing and enthusiastic. We need more people
like them to help with screenings and educating
patients about breast cancer.
I must commend our health sector though for
having the most amazing medication for cancer,
and also for having the necessary equipment.
We’re saving lives, but not as many as we could,
because of late detection. My wish is to one day
become a professor in oncology. I’ll continue to
fight for those who are not being thought of with
regards to this disease.
86| OCTOBER 2013 | WWW.TRUELOVE.CO.ZA
Four women affected
by breast cancer chat
black women about