How cancer lost the battle against Michelle

Catherine Mwauyakufa, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
(First published in Manica Post)
Michelle Wadzanayi Maiseni is currently awaiting her O-Level test results, and I bet she will do well. 5 years ago she had obtained 5 units in Grade 7, and that too after having spent the whole year in hospital. This interview with Michelle bears testimony to her battle against cancer, in which she emerged victorious and became the driver of her destiny by sheer will power.

A tough road it was, but being determined and focused to beat cancer, she conquered this threat that many are facing today to overcome cancer. In her words-“you do not have to just survive cancer, but you have to beat it and be a conqueror”.

Here the story of her victory in her own words:

I am the author of my story— the artist of my masterpiece. 5 years ago, my life hung by a thin thread. It seemed as if every new day was an added opportunity for cancer to push me towards the brink of death. It started off as minor pain in my left leg after I had fallen and hit on a rock during Physical Education at school in 2012. Little did anyone know that a malignant tumour had started growing in my leg. My mother would rub my foot every time the pain worsened, but to no avail. I ended up sleeping very late and waking up early due to the excruciating pain I felt. I felt as if I was just breathing, but no longer alive. The cancer was so aggressive that an intricate network of veins surrounded it, feeding this horrific intruder. The tumour had grown so large that the skin around my leg had reached its elastic limit, making the skin very shiny. The cancer did not only bring about physical agony, but emotional trauma as well. The predicament implied that I was certainly going to lose my limb- a change I was not in any way ready to embrace! I was an athlete, a softball player and generally a hyperactive person. I could not bear the thought of having to live with one leg after I had already felt what it is like to have both for 12 years!

On the day of amputation, February 24, 2012, I had comforted myself with the thought of having the coolest prosthesis. When I woke up at around 6pm, after the operation, I could still feel the everyday pain and the heavy weight of the leg. This fooled me to believe that my leg had not been amputated! Oh, how happy I felt! But on extending my hand to confirm this, I only touched the sheets I was covered with. My leg was gone. And then came the nightmare of chemotherapy—the goal of which is to pretty much kill everything in your body without killing you. Chemotherapy makes you feel much worse than the cancer itself. During chemo you are more tired than you would have ever been. It is like a cloud passing over the sun and suddenly you are out. But you also find that you are stronger than you have ever been before. I had three cycles of chemo, it was hard to go through them, but I realised that I had to pick myself up and carry on. Cancer is life-threatening, but recovery is life-changing. The same chemo that once seemed to have ruined my life gave me a renewed will to live! The worst part of enduring cancer is that you see each day as a curse. The best part of conquering it is that you will start treating each day as a blessing. I did not just survive, I conquered cancer. Cancer lost the battle against me because it originally planned to weaken me, but inadvertently made me stronger. It in fact helped me to bring out the fighter within me. Not many people have the courage to look at cancer in the eye and say- catch me if you can!

Most people ask me what my secret is. How do I keep on going? Well, I realised quick enough that there are some things that we cannot change. So the next best thing is to change oneself and embrace the challenges of life as opportunities of self transformation. I believe God does not give big battles to small soldiers. If you are facing a huge problem, then it means you were born with the strength to overcome it. You just have to see it and use it! The extent of your vision is the boundary of your blessing. I intend to study Maths, Chemistry and Biology at Advanced Level and become a medical doctor specialising in cancer.

I am surprised why some people call me disabled. Disability is not about being physically complete. Disability is about attitude, because there are people with one eye, who can still see more than those with both. There are people with one leg, but they run the race of life and win it. I for one can never be deterred from achieving my dreams. I would also like to thank God for my family. They stood by me throughout. My mother was my pillar of strength and I am grateful for that. To those who are battling cancer, my advice is that no matter how dark the night might get, dawn will follow. No matter how painful the fight, cancer will go and you will live on. Gather all those shards of hope and develop the attitude of a fighter.

Dr Bernie Siegel could predict which of his cancer patients could go into remission by asking, “Do you want to live to be 100?”. Those who would answer “Yes!” were the ones most likely to conquer. Cancer can defeat medicine, but it should never defeat your spirit. Grab cancer by the lapels and kick it. You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life. With Michelle speaking of victory at the tender age of 16, all those battling cancer must know that it can be defeated. The battle is for the strong-willed. If Michelle fought the battle and won, others in similar situations can win too and join Michelle in looking back and saying—Cancer is tough, but I was tougher. I am a mountain mover, I am a table turner, I am a cancer victor”.

Catherine Mwauyakufa, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 1, 2017