As a key note speaker at Playing For Pink breast cancer awareness fundraiser in Sandton, North of Johannesburg, Lauren Schoeman, 39 shared with guests the pain of her experience with breast cancer diagnosis in February this year following a random mammogram test.
Just days before the fateful day of her diagnosis on Valentine’s Day, the mother of four said she had received devastating news from a friend who told her she had discovered she had a malignant lump in her breast, which led her to decide to go get checked out herself.
After waiting for three days for the results of her biopsy testing, she was shocked to discover that not only was the tumor malignant, but that the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes. “My first thoughts were ‘I’m 39 years old, I have no history of breast cancer in my family and my youngest isn’t yet 2 – how can this be happening?’ I was convinced that I wasn’t going to make Christmas, let alone my 40th birthday. I told my husband that he’ll be fine without me and I even had a friend promise to find him a new wife whom I would approve of.”
Next in line was the CT (computerized tomography) scan to determine whether or not cancer has moved into the chest wall and other parts of the body – such as lungs, liver, brain or spine- where cancer can spread to.
“So I went for my CT scan. It was a long afternoon and I was absolutely exhausted, physically and emotionally. I arrived home after 6pm, unsure of my fate and once again, I pretended to the kids that everything was fine- pretending I had been out for the afternoon with a friend. Deep down I knew that they suspected something was up with me, but I didn’t want to scare them until I had all the facts and a clear plan. My little one was quite unsettled not having seen me all day, so after putting her in her cot, I just sat there in the dark. Tears streamed down my face, as I began mentally preparing lists for my husband to help him manage, once I was gone. Anyone who knows me would tell you, that I am a planner and an avid list maker!”
Not long after, her husband burst into the room to inform Lauren that her friend had just phoned. “Two of the radiologists had independently contacted her to say that they had studied my CT scan. Besides the breast and lymph nodes which we knew about, the rest of my body showed no sign of cancer. I can’t tell you what a relief that was for us. That’s when finally hope set in and I thought ‘OK, I can do this’.”
Lauren has remained incredibly positive ever since, and is using her inspiring story of hope and surviving Her2+, an aggressive form of cancer, to make people know that “breast cancer diagnosis isn’t a death sentence.”
Like wise, with the help of her doctor, breast cancer specialist Dr Sarah Rayne, she threw everything into the treatment – 8 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks, followed by surgery and then 6 weeks of daily radiation. “It was a lot to take in, but I was grateful that we now had a plan and I had goals to strive for. It was going to be a tough year, but I knew that with my family and friends supporting me, I’d get through it.”
A week after her surgery on August 13, Lauren received the best news. The oncology report came back saying that she had a complete pathological response to the chemo. “There was no more cancer left. Best news we could’ve hoped for and just that little push needed to keep going and to keep staying positive.”
However, one thing stuck with her during the initial few days of her diagnosis; that she went for a mammogram purely because of a friend’s lump. “That was the nudge I needed, but what about all those other women out there who hadn’t had their nudge? One of the radiologists that I met, told me that they were seeing so many women diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 35 and 40. That scared me and I felt the need to share my story.” Thus Lauren urges any woman reading this, to consider having a mammogram if they hadn’t done so.
A chartered accountant by profession, Lauren also shared that she had become involved in special needs counseling (www.specialneedsconsulting.co.za) after their third son was born with Down syndrome in 2012. “I’ve always found that in life it helps to communicate with people who truly understand what you’re going through because they’ve actually walked in your shoes.”
The road to complete recovery, one day at a time!
It’s been just over a month now since her recent surgery at the time of giving this speech, and Lauren couldn’t be more hopeful and confident about the future, as she prepares for radiation therapy, as many as five days a week for about 6.5 weeks. Although the thought of undergoing radiotherapy can be daunting, Lauren finds solace in the comforting words of her oncologist, “who said to her ‘you are cancer-free. Radiation is just to ensure you stay that way’.”
Summing up her experiences, she said: “I have learned a lot about myself this past year. All those cliches you have thrown at you – ‘live in the moment’, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ and ‘appreciate the little things’. They take on a whole new meaning. I learned to ask for help and those people genuinely want to help and really do care. I learned to keep a positive attitude, even during the bad days and that as much as I can plan and try control situations around me, very often it is out of my hands. I need to keep embracing change and stay flexible, but most importantly, I need to always have hope. I do believe that going forward, ‘breast cancer survivor’ will be another title that I wear proudly, for many years to come.”
About the program
Playing For Pink breast cancer awareness fundraiser forms part of a series of events in the built to the annual Playing for Pink Ladies Invitational Polo Presented by black. Hosted for the fourth consecutive year by Edith Venter Promotions at the prestigious Inanda Club in Sandton, Johannesburg on Saturday, October 27, the day is set to surprise and delight guests with incredible entertainment, gourmet food, high-fashion, pampering, luxury shopping, and sportsmanship, all set against the backdrop of an energetic polo match. This year’s theme ‘Pink Fire’ is all about flair, flames and some of South Africa’s A-listers, influencers, sports personalities, and all-around fashion enthusiasts painting the Inanda grounds in hues of electrifying pink.
Taking place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign seeks to raise awareness and funds for Reach for Recovery, a non-profit organization facilitating the support and care of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, those currently undergoing treatment, as well as those in remission.
As the event’s main sponsor, CEO of Cell C’s streaming service Black, Surie Ramasary said they are proud to be associated with this initiative. “As a new entertainment brand, we are constantly looking for meaningful ways of giving back to our community and this initiative is another way of showcasing our support. With the funds raised this year, we hope to make a difference in the lives of women in cancer remission and to help them rediscover themselves.” The initiative’s Ditto Project, aimed at benefiting women from lower income groups, who cannot afford to undergo reconstructive surgery, will also benefit from the day’s proceedings.
Book your ticket
To be part of this eventful day of glamour and goodwill that will touch, and make a difference in the lives of many, members of the public will have to purchase tickets, at a cost of R800 per person, with an additional R200 entry fee to the official after-party. Book yours at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook: @PlayingforPinkSA. Hospitality suites are also available.