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A journey to motherhood - against all odds

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Looking back at her childhood, Zukisa Mukwevho never thought she would live to experience motherhood.

"At the age of 12 years old I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia," she said," At the time I knew very little about the disease, all I knew was that I would become sick and have a short lifespan because 'childhood cancer' was paramount. It was a long journey that I took, not knowing what the future looked like."

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Picture supplied: Childhood cancer survivor, Zukisa and her daughter, Zoe

Today is Mother's Day – a day Jacobs noted was a time on the global calendar where all children are encouraged to demonstrate love appreciation and honour to their mothers. School children prepare cards and poems while older children shower mothers with gifts and attention. Fathers also prepare special treats for the mothers to demonstrate appreciation for bearing and raising children.

At 35 and a proud mother to her daughter Zoe, Mukwevho recounted her journey.

"I was introduced to treatments that would make me better, some of the medication I used was called Bone Marrow, Lumbar Puncture, Chemotherapy and I took many prescriptions and pills. It was horrible on me and my body, but in the end, they all contributed a part in the process. It was not easy missing school, leaving my family and friends, but I knew there was nothing I could do as I needed to be who I was before I got sick, become stronger and play with my friends again," she said.

Fortunately, Mukwevho had support from her family, friends and CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA (CHOC) which she credited as having been instrumental in building her mental strength. But, as she would find, the journey would be long, and hard.

"I managed to finish my 3 years treatment and went in remission for 18 months. In 1999 I had a relapse, same month as my initial diagnosis. I was now diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. I was devastated and very sad at the thought of coming back to hospital and going through the treatment process all over again," she continued.

Mukwevho said, "I started on a different treatment, but the medical specialists were not 100 percent sure that it would work. Eventually, I was given a few days to live, but the universe had different plans for me. Soon after, a doctor visited our unit from overseas, he saw me while doing his rounds. The doctor read my file and was interested in more details about my medical history. Fortunately there was a new drug at the time called 'GLEEVEC', he told me the drug is coming to Johannesburg for a trial, but that it was only for adults. At the time I was 17 years old – almost an adult. They tested the drug and it worked wonders for me."

Mukwevho said she was blessed to experience motherhood, something she never even imagined when she was diagnosed.

"I can still remember how emotional and overwhelmed I felt the first time I held my tiny baby in my hands. I remember those first days cuddling her, nursing and nurturing her, protecting and caring for her. It changed my entire life. Nothing is as rewarding as spending fun, happy hours each day with your child and taking time to enjoy the good that comes with motherhood. My daughter means everything to me. I always dreamt of having my own child, but thought I would never live to see this moment due to my medical condition- cancer."

Today, wherever Mukwevho goes, her daughter is always with her.

"My motto is: 'Never forget to live your life to the fullest as you never know what tomorrow brings for you' .Every mother’s day I am reminded that childhood cancer is not a death sentence, it is curable and there is life after it.

"I now work for CHOC and give much needed support to children and parents on their cancer journey. This mother’s day along with CHOC we will continue providing comprehensive support and keeping more than hope alive to children with cancer and their families."

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