In September, of 2018, Landy Yeatman accepted a fitness challenge from a colleague of hers. The 44-year-old group accounts manager and single mother of two girls assumed this trial with gusto and she even managed to drop 12kg in the process. She joined a gym and her daughters partook as well. But life, however, is full of curveballs… Landy was, barely a month later, in October of that year, diagnosed with a very aggressive form of stage 3 breast cancer. There are a few kickers in this tale, too. If she never dropped the amount of weight as she did, then it would have been unlikely that she would have discovered a lump in her breast. There is also no history of cancer in her family which makes it all seem somewhat strange.
Ultrasounds, mammograms and biopsies confirmed any and all suspicion and at some point the tumour that she developed grew at an alarming rate – 8cm in a mere fortnight. She is not one for grand emotional outbursts, but Landy does admit that she was rather shocked by the news. Her girls, however, kept her focussed and anchored. She was subsequently sent to the Breast Cancer Clinic in Milpark where she met with one Dr Carol-Ann Benn – one of the top breast surgeons in South Africa. Here it was confirmed that she tested positive for the HER2 protein.
The HER2 protein effectively promotes the growth of cancer cells and Landy’s fortuitous discovery of the growth probably saved her life because an escalation to stage 4 would have made her treatment extremely complex. Breast cancer at stage 3 is very treatable and the success rate in its eradication is quite high. It is not known what exactly triggered the development of the illness in Landy, but she has a faint suspicion that the stress incurred during a tumultuous divorce may be at fault. A trip to Sandton Oncology followed where she met with Dr Keorapetse Tabane.
A week later she began her six-month long chemotherapy treatment. She completed the course in mid-April of this year and Landy says that it is indeed as terrible as other have made it out to be. She had to work from home, she could barely quaff down a glass of water and she spent a significant amount of time on her bathroom floor. The chemo was however 100 percent successful. There was a total reduction of the tumour (which at first made surgery impossible) and on the 9th of May she underwent a double mastectomy; a few affected lymph nodes were removed as well. Colleagues shaved their heads in support of her treatment for breast cancer.
This cheery result was the proverbial calm before yet another storm, though. A month later Landy became very ill. She could hardly function, but she put her symptoms down to post-chemo effects. During this time her youngest daughter contracted swine flu and her elderly mother had to have a broken hip completely reconstructed. A trip to Milpark hospital proved inconclusive – tests indicated that she was fine and her symptoms were that of a viral infection, probably. They did not cease and she rang up a surgeon at the hospital.
More bad news followed. A blood clot was discovered in her lungs. This fragmented and became septic; she would not have been if she held out for another week. Her haemoglobin count dropped to 4 – a normal level ought to sit between 14 and 17 and for it she had 12 units of blood transfused in 14 days. The clot was treated, but a haemolytic anaemia diagnosis followed. She is making a steady recovery, though and on the August 5, she began the first of her 32 radiotherapy sessions and in recent weeks she has been functioning near optimally.
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None of this, naturally, comes cheap, especially for a woman of her age. She has a comprehensive medical aid, but a host of South Africans will be aware of the fine print on such a contract. Many plans will force you to see certain doctors only and you are restricted to the services of certain hospitals at times. In fact, some medical aids enforce surcharges if an individual does not make use of designated service providers. Many cover in-hospital treatments only. It is therefore a shame that a person has to resort to fundraising to cover some of their treatments.
BackaBuddy, thankfully, has helped her out tremendously, so has her family, colleagues and her church. It should come as no surprise that all her treatments totalled close to R1 million and there certainly is more to come. Her BackaBuddy campaign has raised around R75 000, some of which had been used to cover medical shortfalls. The rest will be used to cover ongoing treatments like Herceptin injections (at R8 000 a pop) and visits to specialists. You can assist Landy by donating directly on her BackaBuddy page via https://www.backabuddy.co.za/landy-needs-your-help