Where are they now?
Two of our Cancer Warriors, Paula Robertson and Xolani Hlongwane, share what has happened since they shared their stories.
You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/oncologybuddies
Paula Robertson (65) lives in Glenvista, Gauteng with her husband. She is a proud granny to three grandchildren.
Since finishing treatment for colon cancer in 2015, Paula continued with her life and that included playing hockey. In March 2020, she was chosen for the 60-year age group (A squad) to represent SA at the World Masters Hockey World Cup 2020. “This was my ultimate achievement in my 53-year hockey career: to be selected to represent my country,” Paula says.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the Masters Hockey World Cup was postponed to October 2022. “My dreams were shattered. All the hockey players originally chosen had to now redo trials again.” As luck or fate would have it, Paula was chosen again and represented SA at the World Masters Hockey World Cup 2022. “My dream is now fulfilled!”
However, the elation was short-lived. After being in the clear for seven years, Paula was diagnosed with a recurrence which was detected on her left lung. This was found during a routine check-up just after the Masters Hockey World Cup. “At first, I was devastated, the tears just rolled down my face. It took me three days to go through the emotions to cleanse my soul for the journey ahead. The positive vibe then kicked in and I wasn’t giving into the big C. I decided to fight through this journey again, like a soldier with all the ammunition within me: my faith, courage, strength, hope and belief.”
“Luckily I started treatment physically and mentally strong due to the fact that I had trained so hard. I finished treatment in July this year and learnt to appreciate every day given to me, even more so. My CT scan showed there is no longer cancer showing in my body. The fight has been won again! I must now strengthen my weak broken wings, so I can fly again with brave wings, with my biggest smile!”
Xolani Hlongwane (39) lives in Cape Town with his partner.
Since 2018, Xolani has been in remission since 2018 and says he is still going strong and goes for annual check-ups with his haematologist. He was diagnosed with hodgkin lymphoma in 2017.
“In December 2020, I married my partner and we are living our best lives in Cape Town. I have a new role as donor recruitment manager at DKMS (formerly The Sunflower Fund),” he explains. “I’m extremely happy with this new role as I’m able to directly influence other people’s lives who are diagnosed. As a donor recruitment manager, I’m able to direct the recruitment of donors and make sure that our DKMS Africa Registry is diverse and is able to help every patient in SA that needs to have a blood stem cell transplant. We are able to educate and create awareness about blood cancer and other blood disorders, even in communities where we’ve never been able to hold such conversations. I encourage people to register as donors on dkms-africa.org.”
Moulded to be a bolder and better person
“Having cancer taught me to be kind to myself, to be resilient and always live my life to the fullest. I’ve learnt that there is nothing that is out of reach if you put enough effort in it. The struggles faced through your treatment plan mould you to be better and have a bolder character. “
“Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease doesn’t mean it has to be the end of your life. You need to find the courage to fight to live. There will be dark, bad days but a person who isn’t diagnosed can and will experience those too. These days allow you to appreciate the better and easy days. The art of life is to continuously live, even through the hard times as there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org