A young woman's victory over cancer
Cape Town - “At that moment I didn’t know how to react, I didn’t know if I should cry or be angry. However, a few minutes later I got this peace over me, knowing everything will be okay.”
These were the words of Inge Airoldi during this week’s Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. The 19-year-old from Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape was diagnosed with Grade II Ependymoma last year.
Grade II Ependymomas are low grade tumours and can occur in either the brain or the spine. Her journey started at the beginning of last year when she was struggling with headaches.
Every medical practitioner she saw had a different opinion - from tension headaches, to neck muscle spasm, stress or sinusitis. However, during Airoldi’s final matric exams, her headaches became worse and she started to see black dots. This caused concern and Inge went to see an optometrist because her vision deteriorated. She was referred to a neurologist who suggested a MRI scan.
Airoldi said: “The first thing that popped up was the expense because we did not have medical aid. He then suggested we do a limited one. However, during the MRI scan, the radiologist came in and said we need to do a full scan.
“After the scan, they told me I must stay the night in the hospital for observation. The next morning the doctor came in and brought up my MRI scan. He drew a big circle around the brain stem area and said ‘this right here is cancer’,” she said.
Airoldi was referred to Groote Schuur Hospital for treatment. On November 8, 2019, doctors removed 90% of her tumour. In January, she started radiation to remove the other 10%. She has to go for scans every six months for three years to ensure the tumour is not growing or spreading.
“On November 22, 2019, I felt the sun against my skin and the grass between my toes. All the support got me motivated and showed how many people care about me. Having a dream or a goal also helps, knowing you still want to achieve something,” said Airoldi, who plans to re-write her matric exams next month.
“It was difficult seeing my friends finish matric but I was happy for them. I will finish my matric and it will be rewarding,” she added.
Her mother, Bettina, said when doctors gave the diagnosis it felt as if a carpet was being pulled out from under her.
“Deep down, I knew she would overcome this. After the initial shock my biggest concern was how are we going to afford the medical care she needs. There I decided to hand it over to God as this was way too big for me to handle,” she said.
Cancer Association of South Africa community mobiliser for service delivery in the Cape metro, Emma Campbell, said: “In my relatively short exposure to Inge, I was heartened by her positivity in the face of adversity. I was also humbled by her deep sense of gratitude for life, something few at her age possess.”