I can remember the date and the time my Gynaecologist shook his head, whilst completing my routine check-up, and said: "Sorry Sybel. I have to refer you to a Gynaecologist that specialises in Oncology."
The specialist confirmed that I had Stage 2, Cervical Cancer and she said: "My baby, don't worry - you will be in good hands." And man I have been...
The reality of things didn't set in until later. Honestly, thinking back I remember saying to myself "Me? Cancer? Never! I am black and black women don't get cancer."
Well, I was wrong... Cancer does not discriminate. When I started my treatment, I noticed people of all ages, colour and gender were sitting in the waiting rooms. We were all people, on this journey - together.
When I was referred to the Oncologists, Professor Bernard Donde and Dr Sze Wai Chan, nervous was not the word to describe how I was feeling. I had no idea what to expect.
Meeting with Prof. Donde set me at ease. His humour and caring approach made all the difference to me. He was open and honest about the prognosis which left me feeling hopeful and equipped with knowledge. I knew that it was going to be tough, but that he would manage the side effects of the treatment with me.
"The Doctors and employees are literally out of this world!"
Managing life and cancer treatments was a challenge. I continued to work through most of my treatment, and since I was travelling from Midrand, I seemed to always be late for my appointments. The team was fantastic, compassionate and most accommodating... I was always received with a warm smile, greeted by name and treated with the utmost respect.
"I will never know how they remembered all the patients' names."
When you start through the treatments, reality catches up with you and you start asking more and more questions. The care team never failed me. They answered gracefully, told me how I would be feeling, what I could do as well as what I shouldn't.
Life doesn't stop when you are a working professional, a Wife and Mother. Not even when you have Cancer. My kids are very active beans; I call them jumping beans as they can't sit still. My hubby had to be Daddy and Mommy for a while, taking care of all the extra commitments such as gymnastics, karate, cricket, rugby and choir! Meals and chores - all these things still needed doing.
We would usually share responsibilities, and when I got sick I needed to slow down and get better which nearly broke my heart.
Looking back, I am amazed by the amount of support I received all round. My family, friends, a wonderful boss and colleagues - all of them were such a fantastic source of support. Having my Doctors and care team extend that support made the world of difference to a very difficult journey. Many hands really do make a task much lighter.
"I can't emphasize this point enough... the Sandton Oncology care team is AWESOME and I thank them deeply."
The Cancer journey is not an easy one, and having a caring team of professionals focused on you - really makes all the difference.
My advice to others dealing with cancer: I feel it is important to remain positive, ask for help and accept it when it is offered. You will be amazed to learn how caring the world is when you allow it to be.
I kept reminding myself, this too shall pass.