Nonjabulo is one of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre’s Trust’s (HACT’s) palliative care patients. She is currently in HACT’s Respite Unit because she has advanced cancer and needs the vital pain management, wound care, and loving environment she cannot get anywhere else. Here is her story...
Nonjabulo is a single mum battling for her life. 37 years old with a son of 16 years, whom she adores, she is thankful to have a bed in the Unit as she deals with her symptoms and comes to terms with what might happen in the future. Nonjabulo tested positive for both HIV and Vulva Cancer in 2011 and, by the end of 2012, she had received chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in government hospitals after being initiated onto ARV’s.
Despite a year of remission in 2013, Nonjabulo’s cancer returned the following year. This time doctors said that her cancer was too advanced and, at stage four, no more treatment would be given apart from pain killers. She went from hospital to hospital but the response was still the same and she was sent home. All her appeals were refused and she was left to the care of her young son who was still in primary school.
“I knew about HIV but I did not know I could get cancer,” Nonjabulo says. “When I got some genital warts, I was treated for them and they went away; but then I developed a wound and that did not go. It became very painful. It was too late when I got treatment from the hospital and then I ended up in a very bad situation at home.”
There was no-one else to help. Nonjabulo’s son struggled with dressing the wounds and it was clear he could not cope and Nonjabulo could not deal any longer with the pain. Eventually and thankfully, Nonjabulo was referred to HACT.
“It is good here. We are cared for well and they manage the pain”, she whispers. “I can talk with the other patients and I am not alone. It helps reduce the stress and thoughts of dying by being with others and being cared for.”
HACT specialises in providing HIV/AIDS and cancer care through its 24-bed Respite Unit. Here, our experienced nurses and councillors are on hand to help each patient through their individual journey, be that recovery or not. Currently, approximately 70% of the Unit’s patients recover and are well enough to be discharged. However, 30% do not make it and pass away peacefully in the Unit’s loving environment where every patient matters.
“My son is such as good boy. He is so caring, it breaks my heart. He visits me and here it is a good place for us to spend time together.”
Nonjabulo is very grateful for the opportunity to share her troubles with the staff and others around her. She has found a new, deeper faith in God and finds comfort in reading the Psalms in the Bible and praying with friends of HACT who visit from a local church. With tears in her eyes as she speaks, Nojanbulo has this message to give to anyone reading her story;
“I call on the government to teach children about cancer. The youth must learn about cancer as well as about HIV, and go to the clinics early to get tested. I didn’t have this information. Also, if people are on HIV medication, then they must take it and not default. And to the Hillcrest AIDS Centre and staff - I say thank you.”
Credit: Rebekka Stredwick