Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
19 Oct 2015
10:30 am

Breast cancer survivor Zoleka Mandela spreads the word

Nandipha Pantsi

They are among our country's most recognisable faces. One is a veteran actress and the other the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

WARRIOR. Zoleka Mandela hopes to save lives by raising more awareness about breast cancer. Picture: Refilwe Modise

But fame is not the only thing they have in common. Lillian Dube and Zoleka Mandela are breast cancer survivors who have dedicated their lives to spreading awareness on it, especially among black women. They met at the Hush Puppie Pink Shoe fundraiser earlier this month, where they shared their inspiring stories. Their message was clear: early detection saves lives.

Playing the role of a nurse, Sister Bettina, on SABC 1’s Soul City made Dube conscious about her health. She was examining her breasts for lumps regularly and had routine mammograms. In 2007, a mammogram revealed a cancerous tumour in her right breast.

“If it was not for the things I had learnt while being a nurse on Soul City, I probably would have gone to the doctor when I was dying,” says Dube. “I want to encourage everyone who is over the age of 40 to go for regular mammograms.”

Dube was recently diagnosed with cancer a second time and just a few weeks after a single mastectomy, the 70-year-old is back at work and spreading awareness.

FILE PICTURE: Lillian Dube poses for pictures on the red carpet at the SAFTA's held in Midrand, 22 March 2015. Picture: Refilwe Modise

FILE PICTURE: Lillian Dube poses for pictures on the red carpet at the SAFTA’s held in Midrand, 22 March 2015. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Mandela was 32 when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. She had lost her 12-year-old daughter in a car crash in 2010 and her three-month-old son died a year later. With the support of her family, Mandela put up a brave fight against the disease and inspired many people by detailing her journey on social networks and in her book, When Hope Whispers.

“My goal has always been to use my story to inspire people and help save lives,” says Mandela. “One of the things I learnt from my grandparents is that you always have the power in you to help somebody else, despite what challenges you may be facing.”

Mandela had been living with cancer unknowingly for eight months before she was diagnosed. She had a bilateral mastectomy (the removal of both breasts) with immediate reconstruction and went through 16 cycles of chemotherapy.

“Today, I celebrate the second chance I have been given at life by helping to save more lives.” By being vocal about the disease, Dube and Mandela have reached many people with their messages about breast cancer.