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Published 7 years ago
By Forbes Woman Africa

 The Famous Face

Zoleka Mandela

Age: 34

“The suspicion was there. It was nine months after I lost my son. It was on the 15th of March 2012,” says Zoleka Mandela as she tries on her dress for this photoshoot.

Despite her famous name, Mandela has been through a lot. Her diagnosis came after a string of personal tragedies including the death of her daughter during the 2010 World Cup followed by drug and alcohol addiction.

The day she got the news, she was surrounded by family. “My father’s older sister had died from breast cancer. So I thought I was going to die,” says Mandela. Recalling her aunt’s experience with the disease, she chose to remove her left breast. She has since gone through reconstructive surgery.

Mandela considers her scars ‘battle wounds’. She says: “I’m not too concerned about my scars. If anything, the breast cancer I felt would have robbed me of being a mother again.” Five months ago, she did become a mother – again. However, because of the surgery, she could no longer breast-feed. This, she says, is what pains her the most.

Mandela’s book When Hope Whispers chronicles her battle with breast cancer.

On these pages are clothes from David Tlale’s Pink Collection. “Purely a celebration of life, it was conceptualized when we [the brand] were celebrating our 10th anniversary. Our focus for the collection was celebrating femininity, the beauty of a woman across color and job description,” says Tlale’s manager Thapelo Ramalope, who put it together.

The Mother

Hazel Pieterse

Age: 44

Hazel Pieterse lives in Klerksdorp, several hours’ drive from Johannesburg, and often leaves her home around 3AM to make her appointments at her clinic. She has recently undergone a full mastectomy. The mother of five says she’s fighting to stay alive for her children, especially her youngest who is just 10 years old.

Pieterse was diagnosed in November last year with an aggressive cancer in the breast and the lungs. “I am fine, I am strong,” she says. She credits her recovery to her family. A day after her breasts were removed, she became a grandmother for the first time.

Ever since she received the diagnosis, she’s been documenting her experiences in a journal which she carries with her everywhere.

The migrant

Ida Ndlove

Age: 46

Ida Ndlove is originally from Zimbabwe and was worried about her diagnosis because of this. She had no health insurance and her only option was public hospital. She eventually found her way to the Helen Joseph Breast Clinic in Johannesburg and her Zimbabwean identity did not hinder her treatment.

Ndlove, a domestic worker, initially found the commute from her home – quite a trek from the clinic – difficult especially on the days she had chemotherapy. However, her employer offered some relief by housing her and her husband for a month as she underwent treatment. “I started to feel better,” she recalls. The brief move also lifted her spirits, she says: “[The people where I stayed] were saying that you are going die.” She found a more positive environment there and around the women of the clinic.

Ndlove was diagnosed in December last year and has completed several cycles of chemotherapy as well as the removal of one of her breasts. She is currently undergoing radiation treatment.

The Pillar

Elaine Harrington

Age: 58

“It was only going to be the best,” says Elaine Harrington, all smiles after this photocall. The grandmother of ten was diagnosed two years ago, on the day of her wedding anniversary. And after receiving the grim news, she says she was at a loss.

“It only hit me when I walked out the door…[I thought] my family is not strong enough to handle this. I am the strong one in the family. Who am I going to tell?”

She had gone on holiday and returned to the difficult news. “My tumor went to 14cm, it was very long.” After sharing the news with her sister, Harrington made an important decision, “I decided that this is it and it was not going to get me down.” After rounds of grueling chemotherapy and an operation to remove one of her breasts, Harrington remains in remission.

She has remained very close to the Breast Clinic where she was diagnosed, sharing her strength and support with other women going through what she did. She is also contributing to the fight for a cure in other ways, making pink ribbons and trinkets to further the cause. Two of Harrington’s sisters have also been diagnosed with breast cancer and she thinks the most important part of recovery is having your family around you.

“It’s very important for your family to support you. Without that support, you can’t make it,” she says.

The Young One

Motsedisi Mosia

Age: 24

Breast cancer is rare in women like Motsedisi Mosia. She is one of the younger breast cancer patients at the Helen Joseph Breast Clinic in Johannesburg.  When she received her diagnosis late last year, she was working as a waitress at a local restaurant. The news was unwelcome and unsettling.

She has since had both her breasts removed and has taken time off to recover. Her worries now turn to finding someone to settle down with. “I was worried that I am not going to date anyone anymore,” she says. Mosia’s breasts, to her, spelled out more than her femininity – they also pronounce her beauty. Now, post-op, she claims she really doesn’t feel beautiful any more.

However, she is being strong. Throughout the process, she has leaned on her sister, who she considers her best friend, for support. She hopes for more confidence and a return to the dating world after a breast reconstruction surgery.

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Related Topics: #Breast Clinic, #Cancer, #David Tlae, #Diagnosis, #October 2014, #Zoleka Mandela.