Shortly before the start of the first millennium, the Roman poet Virgil wrote “love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love.”
Now, in a romantic sense, that’s all well and good, as you throw yourself into love and embrace all that it encompasses, particularly if it’s a ‘new’ love and you’re in the process of falling in love.
We all remember that, don’t we?
But, what about a more ‘practical’ love applied slightly differently? A deeper love that has the ability to do more than make you feel like you’re walking on air? A love that has the ability to heal?
Not if you’re a practical person and have just received the most devastating news about your own health. How do you even begin to think about love and imagine using it as a tool with which to deal with an illness?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, and according to the National Cancer Registry of 2014, breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately one in every 27 women in South Africa.
Those are startling numbers, and whilst they will – and should – shock you, within those numbers are plenty of stories of women diagnosed with breast cancer who took on the disease and beat it.
And they beat it with love.
Take Sheldene, who just under four years ago was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and immediately sent her husband a text message.
“He phoned, reminded me of our vows, spoke about love and said that we were in this together,” she says. “He said we would walk it together and that we would win.”
Just three weeks later she started chemotherapy, began losing weight, and her hair fell out.
“It was the most painful, hurtful experience ever,” she says. “But, he always assured me that I was still beautiful.”
Sheldene admits to having gone through some ‘dark’ moments, including one morning when she woke up weak, sick and in pain, before telling her husband that she couldn’t take it anymore and was ready to give up. She didn’t realise that her children were behind her and that was enough to shock her into action.
“I had a one-on-one talk with cancer and told it that it was time for change,” she says. “I realized that I had control to make myself feel better in so many other ways.”
That set Sheldene on the road to recovery, and even though it was a long road, the love for her family was her inspiration.
“I know that the strength, courage, faith, hope and love that cancer has brought into my life has made me feel more beautiful than ever,” she says. “So, even if cancer meant to bring pain in my life, it has brought me so much love and I have learnt a lot from this experience to the extent that I am grateful to cancer.”
“My illness also brought my husband and I much closer and more in love than ever before. I am grateful and I love him so much.”
Then there’s Jenny, who on the first anniversary of the death of her mother discovered that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was 44, happily married, and with a daughter in high school.
“We are a very close family and I found her sobbing on her bed,” says Jenny. “She said, ‘Mom, I love you so much’. Pulling her into my arms I assured her and said, ‘I love you too my angel, and I don’t know how I know this, but everything is going to be OK’. And it was!”
Jenny speaks about experiencing “the peace which transcends all understanding” and that the love of her family was the foundation of that.
“The three of us travelled the journey of breast cancer together,” she says. “Every step of the way, from diagnosis to surgery, treatment, side-effects, hair loss, and full recovery. “As a family we stood strong, and it was a pretty formidable team fighting this disease!”
Interestingly, as with Sheldene, Jenny doesn’t resent her experience, as it brought her closer to her family and exposed her to just how much love those close to us have to give.
“I do not regret, for one moment, the ‘season’ of cancer, which I had to go through,” she says.
Another more celebrated ‘Jenny’ or ‘Jennifer’ might be able to relate.
Renowned 1980s American singer-songwriter Jennifer Rush dedicated her first album release to her mother, Barbara, who died of cancer, and whilst her 1984 hit ‘The Power of Love’ was not penned in her memory, selected words still ring true and speak to the effect love can have on the human condition.
Lost is how I’m feeling
Lying in your arms
When the world outside’s too much to take
That all ends when I’m with you
The feeling that I can’t go on
Is light years away
Sometimes I am frightened but I’m ready to learn
Of the power of love.
The Playing for Pink Ladies Invitational Polo will be held at Inanda Club, Johannesburg on the 24th of October and promises to be a day of glamour and goodwill that will touch and make a difference to the lives of many.
Presented by Edith Venter Promotions, the Playing for Pink Ladies Invitational Polo is an annual event in Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is aimed at educating the public about breast cancer and raising funds for Reach for Recovery and the Ditto Project.
Tickets are available from R1000 per ticket to the Flamingo public suite and hospitality packages are available, which can be secured by contacting Edith Venter Promotions.