Cervical Cancer

Winnie Ndlovu – Making the most of life

December 1, 2023 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Winnie Ndlovu has been in remission for five years. She shares her cervical cancer journey.

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Winnie Ndlovu (53) lives in Vosloorus, Gauteng. She is a widow and has four children aged 33, 30, 25 and 12.

Stage 2 cervical cancer

Winnie started going for Pap smears at the age of 45. When she went for a Pap smear in March 2018, at the age of 48, the results showed abnormal cells and she was reffered to a hospital where a biopsy was taken. Winnie also bled every time she had intercourse with her husband. “It wasn’t a lot of blood, but it was still scary. My husband was the one who suggested I get it checked out. While I was waiting for the biopsy results (six weeks), the bleeding worsened, and I had severe pain that I couldn’t even sleep at night, so I went back to the hospital. I walked to the wrong section and the gynaecologist said I was supposed to go to out-patient department (OPD) to open a file but since I was there, she would see me,” Winnie explains.

The gynaecologist did a physical exam and told Winne ‘she could feel the sore and thinks it’s cancer.’ Winne was booked for an X-ray and sonar. When she came back to the hospital for the all of the results, she was told she will be admitted and will be transferred to anacademic hospital in a few days. A few more examinations were done, and, in July 2018, Winne was diagnosed with Stage 2 cervical cancer.

Denial and devastation

Winnie recalls that when the gynae told her she thought it was cancer, in her mind the gynae was wrong. Then when it was confirmed that it was cancer, Winnie says she was devastated. “I think I lost weight just from hearing the news. I went home and told my husband and he told me that I will be fine, and he will be with me every step of the way,” she says.


Winnie was admitted into the local hospital and was transported to the academic hospital every day for radiation (26 days), chemotherapy (two cycles) and high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy (three sessions), which were all done concurrently. She was allowed to go home over the weekends.

Winnie only shared the news with her children in the first week of treatment when the side effects (vomiting, runny stomach and tender skin) were showing. “My firstborn was very brave and supported me by taking on the responsibility of cooking and cleaning. Though,my second born, my son, was just as devasted as me.” The other children were quite young so it didn’t really affect them.

Winnie responded well to her four-month treatment and was told after her six-week check-up that the cancer was gone. She continued going for six-week check-ups. Currently, she goes for check-ups every four months and a Pap smear once a year.

Vaginal dilator

Winnie was advised to use a vaginal dilator three times a week during treatment and thereafter to alleviate the tightening of her vagina and to ensure intercourse wouldn’t be too painful, as well as lubricant during intercourse. “I started having intercourse two months after treatment; it was painful at first but after a month it got better. However, my husband enjoyed it very much after treatment saying it was more pleasurable,” Winnie says bashfully.

Winnie adds that she didn’t tell her husband that she needed to use a vaginal dilator but did tell him that they needed to use lubricant and says their sexual life was healthy after cervical cancer treatment.

Loss of husband

Sadly, Winnie’s husband passed away from COVID in 2021 and since he was the breadwinner, Winnie’s sister-in-law asked if she could raise Winnie’s youngest daughter (12) in Limpopo, which Winnie agreed to. “I do miss my daughter, but my sister-in-law is helping me. Plus, I go visit her once a month.”

When asked whether she knew about the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, she wasn’t too sure but recalls getting a form from her daughter’s school asking for consent to give the vaccine to her daughter. “I did give consent, but I don’t know if the nurses have come to the school yet,” Winnie says.

Volunteer at Helen Joseph Hospital

Despite losing her husband, Winnie says she is happy and making the best of life. She started volunteering at the breast clinic at Helen Joseph Hospital a month ago through Campaigning for Cancer and is grateful for the stipend she receives.

“I go there every Thursday and I enjoy it very much as I can empathise with the patients as I have been there. I enjoy sharing my story and telling them that I have been in remission for five years.” The 53-year-old is an an avid runner with many medals hanging in her house and she also coaches youth. She would love to take part in the Comrades Marathon one year.  Winnie says she would love to go on holiday but doesn’t have money, so she will spend time with friends and most probably celebrate Christmas by having a braai.

Editor Laurelle Williams

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]

Photo by Neale du Plooy Photography

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