In 2008, wife and mother Wambui Gitonga underwent a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The surgery and subsequent chemo- and radiation therapy took a huge toll on her appearance, health and mood.
‘My nails turned black, I also had black hands and feet, even my tongue turned black,’ says Wambui.
‘I lost all my hair and eyebrows. The treatment also left the skin around my scars extremely dry and I needed moisturising every two hours to get rid of the patchy, white appearance.’
Wambui says she also felt extremely self-conscious about her scars and the hollow dent in her chest where her breast used to be. ‘I didn’t want to wear low-cut tops or a swimming costume. I felt incomplete.’ Fortunately, throughout her ordeal, her husband, David Gitonga Ndungu, stood by her. ‘At no point did my husband’s attitude or non-verbal language show that I was less of person. He stood by me through my darkest mood swings.’
In 2011, Wambui underwent reconstruction surgery, where doctors removed skin from her back shoulder
to create a flap on her chest for a prosthetic. It made Wambui much happier.
Today, 10 years after her first diagnosis, the mother of two boys is cancer free and beaming with health and vitality.
‘I’m proud of my scars,’ she says. ‘They are a reference point in my life, a visible landmark that I got through tough season in my life and came out stronger.’ She now chooses to do things differently. ‘I told myself that I won’t be careless, I will be carefree. I donot postpone the things I can say or do today. I need to tell of God’s
goodness in the land of the living.’ Wambui stays healthy by following a balanced diet and by exercising regularly. She plays golf twice a week
at Limuru Country Club. ‘This helps me to exercise in the fresh air and to de-stress. Golf is especially useful in exercising my arm where the lymph nodes were removed so that it doesn’t get lymphedema.’
Wambui, in partnership with the Women4Cancer organisation, holds regular golf tournaments in Kenya to raise funds for awareness, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. But she has even bigger dreams: she plans to travel theworld, win golfing tournaments and spread her positive message.
‘I want my life to make sense – especially for those going through a similar breast cancer experience,’ she says.
‘Don’t hold onto a breast that will kill you. If doctors recommend a mastectomy, do it so it does notspread. And remember — there is life after a mastectomy, and there is marriage after a mastectomy.’