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SCTM 2023 – Chantel Memziwe NHL Survivor Outrunning Cancer

Chantel Memziwe is a determined lady! Never letting her cancer diagnosis or treatment get the best of her, she kept pursuing her love of running and achieving the goals she had set for herself.

We are so fortunate that she is one of our CANSA Active Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Ambassadors for 2023. Chantel is also a member of our Facebook Support group for cancer patients and loved ones, Champions of Hope.

Read her remarkable story of perseverance below…

Says Chantel:

“I am a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Stage 4 cancer Survivor. My journey with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer started around June 2016 when I started experiencing symptoms, but did not know at the time it was cancer.

It was when I found a lump on the side of my right breast, December 2016, when the alarm bells went on. I could not go for screening tests, as my day to day medical aid benefits where finished. January 2017, I went for a mammogram and an ultrasound , nothing was found. I was hospitalised, went for a CT scan. Nothing was found. It was only when a biopsy was done on the lump on my breast, it was found to be cancerous. Then I had a bone marrow biopsy to determine the stage -the cancer had spread to my bone marrow, meaning I had stage 4 cancer.

A chemotherapy port was inserted, and chemotherapy treatment was started Feb 2017, once every 3 weeks. I went for chemotherapy once every 3 weeks.

Initially I stopped running as I thought running was over for me. My husband is also part of the running since when we started. So, I went to support him at races. I continued working as well. Eventually I got tired of sitting on the side lines. I started running again for 3 weeks. By the end of August 2017 my scans were clear. I was cancer free by the Grace of God.

I had to go for scans every 3 months. June 2018, it was discovered that the cancer had returned in the lymph nodes. I was then referred by my oncologist to a haematologist, which was very scary. The haematologist did his scans and tests and found that the lymph nodes were not as big as originally discovered . We had to monitor only for now as Follicular cancers are very tricky, if treated too much, they may become drug resistant.

We monitored my health and I continued running, living my life. I even qualified in October 2019 to participate in the 2020 Comrades event. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. COVID happened and in June 2020 it was discovered that my spleen was enlarged. Another blow. I had to stay home as I was high risk due to lowered immunity and I also have Diabetes type 1, and am insulin dependent.

I had to undergo intense chemotherapy. Three days in hospital, once every 3 weeks. The idea was to kill the cancer completely and then undergo a bone marrow transplant. New bone marrow, new immune system.

I continued running right through, and even completed the Virtual Sanlam Cape Town Marathon 42.2km just 2 days after my second hospital session. My scans were clear after 2 in hospital sessions.

Dr Koornhof advised I need to continue as they wanted to be 100% sure the cancer is gone. I was fed up, as the side effects were quite severe, but I had to continue.

We discovered that my older sister was 100% match, she was my bone marrow donor. I had the bone marrow transplant on 26 January 2021. On 8 February I was discharged from the hospital and I returned to work in June 2021.

I took part in the National Transplant Games in Qqeberha, from 7 to 10 July in the 100m sprints, 1 500m and 5km road race. Sadly I did not qualify but I was within 10% of the qualifying times, which was amazing. I had until 14 August to complete my extra qualification. The qualifying times are hectic. Of the 3 events I managed to qualify and requalify for the 100m sprints, after a lot of hard work.

God works in mysterious ways. From being road runner to sprinter at age 43!

I have been blessed with so many people who rooted for me and assisted me to attend the World Transplant Games in Perth Australia in April 2023. The whole experience from my departure from CTIA has been extraordinary. I placed 4th in the 100m sprints in the category 40-49 and made the most amazing memories that will last a lifetime. I will be forever grateful to everyone that assisted me.

October 2023 – I am participating in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as a CANSA Active Ambassador.”

CANSA wishes Chantel every success as she continues to set goals for herself and overcome the challenges she experiences. Go Chantel – you are an inspiration!

Read more about Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma