Lung Cancer

Millicent Mavhungu – Grateful for every day

October 1, 2021 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Having survived COVID while in hospital after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, Millicent Mavhungu is grateful to her doctors for saving her life.

Millicent Mavhungu (48) lives in Vosloorus, Gauteng with her husband, Doctor, and their three children. 

In November 2020, Millicent’s legs were swollen and sore. She went to her GP and he treated her for arthritis, giving her an injection and oral tablets. She started to work again but felt very weak and had shortness of breath. “I thought it was COVID, but the test results came back negative.”

A week later, Millicent collapsed at home and was rushed to a local regional hospital. Her lungs were drained as they had fluid surrounding them while various tests were done, including a biopsy, to find out what was wrong with her. At first, the doctor thought it was tuberculosis but after consulting with another doctor, it was decided to do another blood test. This test confirmed Stage 4 lung cancer.

It was also found that Millicent’s heart wasn’t beating normally, and she was put on medication. The 48-year-old was then transferred to a private hospital as the doctors explained that they couldn’t treat lung cancer at the regional hospital. 

Processing the diagnosis

“I was shocked, frustrated and very afraid when I heard the news,” Millicent says. With her husband, Doctor, adding, “She was very depressed as when you hear the word cancer, it’s a death threat. I could see when we told the kids that she was losing hope. I knew I had to be strong for the kids, because if I lose hope, it will be chaos. Thankfully, through prayer and counselling, the kids dealt with the news and realised it isn’t a death threat.”

“The one lady at the local hospital also gave me hope by telling me that once I get to the private hospital, they will know how to treat me,” Millicent adds.

No treatable mutations

After more testing at the private hospital, it was confirmed that Millicent has adenocarcinoma, a non-small cell lung cancer, but no treatable mutations. The primary lesion is in her left lung and she has extensive lymphangitis of both lungs (cancer cells in the lymphatics of both lungs).  

“When the doctors saw me, they reassured me that they will try their utmost but can’t promise me anything. At this time, my lung had shrunk so much and was surround by fluid,” Millicent says.

In ICU for two months

Before Millicent could start any chemotherapy, the doctors had to remove all the fluid surrounding her lungs and stabilise her. Added to that, she also caught COVID and was transferred to the COVID ward for 10 days. She was then sent back to the ICU ward.

It was only two months later after learning to walk again and bath on her own, in January, that Millicent was finally discharged, with an oxygen machine. “Thankfully, I only use it when I sleep now, I’m fine during the day and I don’t need to take the heart medication anymore,” she says. 


In February, Millicent started six cycles of chemotherapy. She responded well to it, however, there was still active disease present. So, a second regimen of chemotherapy was started. Her oncologist says her disease is still shrinking and clinically she is improving. 

At the end of the second regimen, Millicent will go onto maintenance chemotherapy, hopefully oral treatment (vinorelbine) to keep her disease controlled. This drug has minimal side effects. She will be monitored with chest CT scans to monitor the cancer. There are metastases in her bone, but they are stable and haven’t increased.

Thankfully, Doctor and Millicent have medical aid but unfortunately due to the co-payments Doctor had to sell his car to pay these costs. He now hires a car every time he needs to take his wife for chemotherapy or a check-up. 

“I’m grateful for my husband, he has been there for me every step of the way. Next year, when I’m better, I will get a job and help my husband financially,” she says.

Side effects

Various chemotherapy side effects were experienced by Millicent, such as her nose bleeding, a rash on her body, numbness and lack of taste. 

She says the lack of taste is the worse. “My doctor says I must eat every three hours, but even though I have an appetite, food isn’t nice when you can’t taste it,” she explains.

However, the pain on the side where the biopsy was done, has been a major trouble. “It’s was extremely sore but slowly I’m starting to feel normal again, especially since I don’t need the oxygen machine that much anymore.” 

Millicent says that the power of prayer has helped her. “When I was in ICU, I couldn’t pray. I was always asleep but throughout chemotherapy, I pray a lot,” she says.

The mother also says that reading has helped her tremendously through this journey. “I read a lot of articles and books of how other people overcame obstacles in their lives and this gives me inspiration to continue to fight. I don’t know why I got lung cancer, I’m not a smoker, don’t drink and have no family history of cancer. Between 2015 and 2019, I worked in Pretoria and used the train, maybe the fumes in the train were too much? Anyway, I have God with me and will get better. I’m already better now,” she says smiling.

“I have to say thank you to all the doctors and nurses who are treating me, for all their hard work and their efforts to keep me strong.” 

Millicent Mavhungu Grateful for every day3
Millicent Mavhungu Grateful for every day4

Images by Chantal Drummond Photography |

Venue: Exclusive Books Mall of South |

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MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle is the Editor at Word for Word Media and graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She have a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write me: [email protected]

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