‘My battle with cancer’

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Manamea Schwalger Former Miss South Pacific and Miss Samoa

Manamea Schwalger Former Miss South Pacific and Miss Samoa

As the sun begins to set on Pinktober this year, I cannot help but think of my journey with breast cancer. 

"Are you ok?" 

This is a common question usually followed by seriously anxious looks in our household in the last two years. It has improved tremendously from three piercing words; " Will you die?." 

When your seven year old climbs into your sick bed to ask these words, your heart literally wants to explode but of course you smile and make light of things. Children should enjoy the bliss of their childhood years and if I can help it, I intend to make sure mine gets just that. 

I have been living with cancer for two years now. 

No small feat for cancer, I am not an easy person to live with. My darling husband should get a medal to show for it come to think of it. Cancer has won a couple of rounds in our battle, taken its toll on the body and continues to lurk in the shadows of my anxious mind.

After months of harsh conventional cancer treatments even the boldest can be shaken with the slightest things. Take a wracking cough for instance, the common flu that a round of cough drops and panadols cured in my carefree days.

Four weeks of uncontrollable coughing coupled with fatigue can wreak havoc on an already troubled mind. Never mind that these signs can also potentially spell the spread of cancer in my lungs.  

But God be praised, always, for it is only pneumonia. In my world, pneumonia is a walk in the park. It is greeted with hugs and kisses infront of a rather surprised but patient GP who smiles awkwardly as my husband and I tearfully embrace. We plead with him to show us my chest x-ray film and to point out once again where my lower left lung shows signs of infection. Infection not mass.  

We beam as he calmly writes out a change of my medication from amoxycillin to eurothromycin. 

I know the next seven days will mean nausea and trying to keep everything down. But I am in bliss today, and I can comfort my seven year old as I catch my breath. No piercing answers to piercing questions, this round belongs to me.

It has been two years since I was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. Surgeries, chemo and radiotherapy have already marked my body but it has not dented my spirits. In a country where conventional cures for cancer is non existence, prolonging life is an everyday battle. 

EATING GREENS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE: Manamea says her children have learned to grow and harvest somewhat wilted looking bok choy and lettuce from their small organic plot free of chemical fertilizer.
EATING GREENS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE: Manamea says her children have learned to grow and harvest somewhat wilted looking bok choy and lettuce from their small organic plot free of chemical fertilizer.

I read of the benefits of organic greens juiced raw and I put my green thumbs to work. My children have learned to grow and harvest somewhat wilted looking bok choy and lettuce from our small organic plot free of chemical fertilizer but full of annoying flying bugs. 

Small price to pay for the boost these wilted leaves give my immune system, never mind the potential of raising an organic farmer amongst my lot. I have grown accustomed to the bittersweet taste of boiled leaves, namely pawpaw and soursop. Tumeric juice in a wine bottle has become my cocktail of the evening, preferably in ice, shaken not stirred. 

The Samoa Cancer Society will be planning activities for Pinktober next year. 

We have had such a wonderful response and warming support from the general public in our fundraising and outreach efforts this past few weeks. 

The memories of those who lost their battle to cancer is ebbed deeply in the hearts of many who have donated or worn a pink ribbon or frangipani on seipua day. I am planning Next Year.

In a religious country such as ours, we are fortunate to be surrounded by so much faithful followers of the one true healer.  Faith has the power to lift the spirits in a weary cancer ridden body. Faith transcends the mind to forget your pains and invigorates the body, even if is for a brief moment. In a country where cancer is literally a death messenger, my faith comforts me.  It is my constant companion.  

The world still searches for the cure to cancer, though millions have fought this battle and have won, many more have succumbed to it. That being said, if we can enhance social norms to favour behaviour that reduce our risks in getting cancer, the battle is halfway won. Living a healthy lifestyle is easier said than done, but for me, it is the daily choice of more days to walk the earth or not. 

I am due for another mammogram and a biobsy up at our National Hospital in the coming week. My dance with breast cancer continues. I know where that road can lead, but today I will celebrate life. 

My sisters and I are off to Crossfit Fatutoa to participate in their Pinktober fundraising efforts. We are all going to have to be mopped off the floor. I am dragging my aunts and cousins along with my girls in their outrageous pink outfits. 

If I am going down, I want cancer to take me screaming and scratching, laughing and loving, living and fighting. And perhaps a few unbecoming pictures of my sisters in a gym to splash on my facebook page. Laughter is after all, the best medicine.

God grant me another Pinktober.

God grant you peace Samoa.

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