There has been an outbreak of the cancer pandemic over the past few decades and this pandemic continues to claim many lives because our people are ignorant. Ignorant to heed the calls for regular cancer testing, ignorant to arming selves with knowledge about this epidemic and the continual obliviousness to leading healthy lifestyles. In an interview on Metro FM’s Fresh Breakfast Show on the 07th September 2018, Xolani Gwala acclaimed his recovery from colon cancer to early detection and leading a healthy lifestyle. His body could fight better because it was in a great shape.

Ladies, Gents, Cats, it is Wednesday. But it is not an ordinary Wednesday. Today we seal October, today we put the Cancer month to rest. Thus in alignment, today we are crushing on Mandisa Mdiya, the lioness who roared her way out of the grips of Cancer.

She was born to an educator a few months post the Soweto uprising. Education-inspired careers were fickle during those times and so to provide the toddler with stability, she was left in the care of her Aunt and Uncle in Kagiso. In 1993 mother and daughter were reunited in their newly established home in Vosloorus, where they lived blissfully for many more years. Together with her son, she currently resides in Lyndhurst.

Mandisa was not coincidentally born a Scorpio, but her entire demeanour embodies characteristics of this star sign. She is brave, resourceful, passionate and stubborn. These qualities sustained her through the most trying times of her life.

She is a self-made Business Manager in one of the “Big 4” Banks in South Africa. I might be accused of using self-made loosely but to validate this, when there were no funds to educate this lioness she did not hide her head in the soil. Instead she left high school and went straight into the job market. When she had dug her heels in and having identified what makes her stand out from the rest, she backed experience with a Business Administration Degree through UNISA.

In 2006 she joined the Standard Chartered Bank and the career move insisted on a geographical move too. The move was untimely as it was in the middle of the year, she could not move with her ‘not-so nuclear’ family. Instead, she left her son in the care of her mother. As a result she suddenly had too much time on her hands. A few months into the job, two of her elderly colleagues lobbied her to join their Tuesday Time Trials. Since she had time to kill, the decision became seamless. “I figured, why not? This is how I will pass time.” Little did she know that what was intended to kill time would later save her life.

“At the first Time Trial, I remember thinking, this is going to be easy, after all I’m young and if these ‘old men’ – as I called them – can run, surely it was going to be easy”. To her surprise running was no child’s play, literally. “Seeing old men who could have been in their 70s or 80s, run past me like I was standing drove me to try harder”. Her efforts bore fruit because in 2008 she was selected to represent her organisation at The Greatest Race on Earth. The opportunity presented two prospects. It was her first international trip and it was the longest distance she had ever ran. The race was a four cities 21.1km relay against other markets. It started in Kenya, proceeded to Singapore, then Mumbai (India) and she sealed the relay in Hong Kong with a PB of 2:05. “2:05 is to date my PB. LOL! Running opened my eyes and my mind”. This was the beginning of the running journey that saved her life…

Growing up there had never been a history of cancer in her family. Despite this in February 2017 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I thought about my son, would he have to grow up without a mother? I thought about my mom, would she have to bury her daughter? I thought of my sisters, would they be able to handle this? I knew then I had to fight a good fight.” She adopted a victor mentality and refused to succumb to the doctor’s report. The road became her best friend. “Running became my escape and my solitude. It lightened my load. I could breathe and think of NOTHING except the inclines and the declines of the route”. Running became a great coping mechanism that the sickness was not recited on her face. When she shared her journey, people would be shocked to learn about what was eating at her. She underwent operations to remove first the lymph nodes then the cancerous lump. After the operations, her surgeon barred her from all extra mural activities for 6 weeks but after 5 weeks she could not fight the urge anymore, the road was screaming her name. In December 2017 she was declared cancer free. “I am on a 5 year treatment to eradicate all chances of the cancer resurfacing. My Oncologist advised that people leading active and healthy lifestyles suffer less side effects. I am happy to report that the medication is responding well to my continuous running.”

Cancer can be beaten! Get screened. Early detection can save your life.

Learn more about cancer. Get empowered.


She is a Self-made Woman raising a Man, a Determined VICTOR and an all-round Great Human being, our #WCW Mandisa Mdiya

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