• “When you push off from the dock … we’re all in the same boat. 
    This isn’t about cancer anymore. It’s about exercise and health and the rest of your life. 
    When we push off we’re paddling away from breast cancer.” 

    - Dr. Don McKenzie, Founder, Abreast In A Boat 
  • “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!” 

    - Vivian Greene 
  • “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” 

    - T.H. Thompson & John Watson 
  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. 
    The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ 

    - Nelson Mandela 
Behind the Cape Grace Hotel, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town
Mondays 17h30 for 18h00 and Saturdays 07h30 for 08h00

Belles Stories » Michele Wallis

Michele Kruger

I work for a software house and we sell software that is allied to the clothing industry – I am the link between the customer and the programmers for software modifications and problems, as well as being involved in new implementations and training. Before this I used to lecture on commercial products like Microsoft Excel, Word and Project

A month before completing my second ‘Voet van Afrika’ marathon in October 2002 I discovered a lump in my right breast. I made a appointment so see the doctor and he immediately sent me off to have a mammogram and ultrasound as well as setting up an appointment for me to see a surgeon at Constantiaberg. The mammogram and ultrasound were not definitive but it was thought that the lump was a ‘fibrous adenoma’, and the surgeon agreed. He was also happy for me to complete my marathon and then book to have a lumpectomy as soon as possible thereafter, which I did. Even after the surgery he seemed quite sure that there was nothing untoward but would phone me if necessary.

Unfortunately I got the dreaded call to say that it was malignant and that I would have to have further surgery as well as chemotherapy. I had a right breast mastectomy at the end of October and started my chemotherapy at the end of November. I was fortunate to only need 4 sessions of chemotherapy and did not have to have radiation. The cancer was a grade II and was ‘estrogen dependent’. I was also very fortunate that none of the lymph nodes removed were malignant. I have to say that initially I was rather devastated at losing my breast as I have always been a very athletic, physical person and not being able to run around in shorts and a crop top distressed me. I have since moved on and am really thankful that I found the lump in time and feel very confident that the cancer has been removed and once I had a breast reconstruction I’m almost back to my old self. I kept up my running in between treatments and reconstruction operations and it definitely kept me positive and better equipped to handle the awful drugs they pour into your veins and being running fit to start with was another huge positive. Losing my hair was another issue I struggled to deal with initially but I organized a wig which was so similar to my own hair that no one really noticed unless I said something.

My family and my partner of 13 years, who is now my husband since April this year, were very supportive and helped me to stay positive at all times. Initially I was quite worried about telling my parents as we lost my youngest brother in 1999, but they were very positive that I would overcome this ‘little hurdle’ in my life and they were right. I have two daughters who are 19 and 21 and at the time and I did not want them to feel they could lose me so this made stay focused on being positive and not negative at all times.

I am a committed runner and have been running for 18 years. In that time I have completed 3 Comrades (89km), 2 whilst living in Durban in 1995 and 2000 and 1 this year, as well as 8 Two Oceans (56km) and numerous marathons. I love running and will always run as it is daily medicine my soul needs to stay alive. I also played league hockey for 30 years with my first club league game while I was still in matric in 1972, missing only two seasons in that time to have two babies and then finally hanging up my boots in 2002. I am a ‘read-aholic’ and am passionate about books. I have started my own library at home as well as belonging to 2 book-clubs.

I first heard about ‘Dragon Boat Racing’ when a friend of mine leant me a book written by one of the Canadian Breast Cancer Survivor Teams called ‘Dragons Abreast’. One of the team members, Akky Mansikka, came to Cape Town and brought the book with her which she gave to my friend as a present. I found the book very inspiring and thought how fortunate they were to have each other. I cannot now believe how fortunate I am to be part of a similar team in Cape Town and I would like to thank everyone who was involved in putting it all together and especially to Pam who gives of her time willingly to coach us. Three cheers for our team ‘Amabele Belles’ and may we conquer our dragons as well as the teams we participant against.