• “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 
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Belles Stories » Lenora Hammond


Hi! My name is Lenora Hammond. I am the mother of four children, am 50 years old and live in Pinelands / Cape Town.

My cancer journey began six months after I had been the donor of one of my kidneys to my son who has chronic renal failure. He was born with this, and we always knew he would eventually need a transplant. The time came in December 2009, and it was deemed that I was a suitable donor. The transplant had months of complications, and my own healing took much longer than I thought possible.

Just as I was healing physically, I received a notice that I was due for my mammogram visit. I tossed it on my desk and reckoned I would get around to making the appointment some other day. But this reminder prompted me to do a self-check of my breasts, and sure enough, I felt a lump there that had surely not been there before. My previous mammogram of two years ago had been clear, and considering the fact that I breast fed four babies each for over a year, I thought I would never be a breast cancer candidate.

The lump prompted me to make an appointment, and the mammogram and subsequent scan revealed that it was considered suspicious. I was then scheduled for a Biopsy, which confirmed ductal breast cancer. The doctor recommended a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. This was performed at Vincent Pallotti in August of 2010 – 8 months after having been a kidney donor.

My first reaction to the news was numbness. But to be honest I think the news was much worse for my husband. I just sort of went through the procedures I was told to and I think that adrenaline kept me going. The fact that I have cared for a chronically ill child for 16 years has prepared me for ‘hospital emotions’, and I felt no fear.

The worst for me has been post – operative. Once the chemo therapy began, and my hair fell out, I felt a profound sense of loss. Yes, ‘it is only hair’, but at that point I felt that enough had been taken from me.

Even now, a year after my operation, I am struggling to come to terms with my ‘new body’. I have seen a counsellor to help me deal with these emotions, and this has helped me to see that I am still a woman in every sense, created in God’s image.

I am on a five year Tamoxyphen course, and struggle with the side effects of this medication. But I am fortunate to have escaped radiation.

My advice to other women suffering with breast cancer is to join a support group. I have been greatly blessed to be a part of the amaBele Belles Dragon Boat Racing Team. We have great fellowship, wonderful exercise in the most amazing harbour, and we have a commonality which allows us to share, support and encourage one another. Apart from the emotional benefits of a support group, exercise helps wonderfully with any stress in your life, keeps you fit and helps you to realize that you are still capable of achieving things in your ‘post cancer life’!

I would strongly recommend check-ups. Even if you are hesitant about having a mammogram, at least perform regular self-checks and see your Gynaecologist regularly. I am grateful for our medical community here in South Africa, who took good care of me and helped me to deal with a potentially fatal disease.

I know there is much debate on what exactly causes cancer, and what the cures should be. From my perspective and experience, I feel that stress and trauma had a lot to do with the development of my cancer. I suppose I will never know for sure, but my recommendation for women in their thirties and older, with children, a job and a busy life is the following: Take the time to look after yourself in the midst of your busyness. Surround yourself with friends from your congregation or fellowship who will be available to support you and assist you in a time of crisis. Look after your health; choose healthy foods and an active life style. The way we live as adults will one day be mirrored by our children, so if we want them to make healthy choices in the future, we must model this by example. A positive outlook on life, coupled with good nutrition and exercise can prevent many diseases, including cancer.

God bless and all the best,
Lenora Hammond