At just 25 and ostensibly celebrating her newly acquired Law Degree, Lebani Mazhani finds herself faced with a fight of her life against a monster called – cancer. However, the smile on her face and the accompanying electrifying energy oozing from her is a perfect disguise of what she goes through. Her demeanour fits well with her motto – look good; feel better. She suffers from Cancer of the Salivary Gland which was first diagnosed in July 2014. Lebani is a first-born child and the only female among two brothers. With her mother being a dentist, one day she was taking a look at her brother’s mouth after he had complained of a toothache when she also opened up hers. “What happened in the 120 seconds that followed saved my life in the literal sense. The lovely smile that my mother had when she looked at my brother’s mouth was quickly wiped off her face,” she says. Her mother immediately rushed to the house and that led to her getting a call from her father the next day asking her to meet him. “With my father being a doctor, the torch lit unto my mouth that day and I wondered what my dad was inspecting in my mouth and the worried look on my dad’s face remained a fixture,” she said.
Biopsy; shock and pain
She was then taken to see a doctor where a biopsy was done and the results showed malignancy which meant cancer cells. That hit both of her parents hard. “Knowing that I had cancer left me numb and the biggest problem was the uncertainty that came with the diagnosis,” she said. She did not know how to tell her friends because she was worried about being the subject of pity. She mustered courage to push hard her Law Degree studies. Her reality was defined after a trip for more testing in South Africa because the scan showed the lump and that it was spreading to the lymphatic nodes. “For the first time I doubted if I was strong enough to handle it,” she recalls. Before checking into the hospital for surgery she told her classmates in school about her condition. They gave her overwhelming support.
She went through chemotherapy and radiation. Her parents had looked for someone who had gone through it to make it easier for her to understand every stage. After going through the options she then took the Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) because of its safety options. She was referred to South Africa where she is still taking her treatments. Her medical aid and Government support is seeing her through the expenses. The treatment she confirms is very painful. At some point she had to endure going ‘under the mask’ daily. Lebani has now released volumes of memoirs that chronicle the journey that she took to be where she is now. She appreciates the value of social media in her healing process as people responded with encouragement to her posts. She is still fighting because she has done another scan which shows some cancer cells that are still remaining. She will have to go through radiation again. She boldly declares that cancer is curable particularly if detected early.
She encourages people to take their bodies seriously because every part that has a cell can have cancer. “People should take the warning signs seriously, because every day that is delayed is cancer spreading through the body,” she says. Lebani says she lives each day as it comes, and also encourages those who are terminal to also do the same. She says it is important for one to continue living their lives even when feeling like a part of them is lost. This is why she made sure that she completed her school. “Ï did not want to take a break from life. Since I did not have a husband or kids, I said to myself that my law degree is the only thing that I can get, and I made sure that I finish school,” she says. She will be graduating in October this year from the University of Botswana (UB). Though she lost friends because of her changed circumstances, she is happy she is winning part of the battle against the disease and that she will be graduating in October. She says that she wants to have a support group of caregivers to sensitise on cancer because even though people die every day because of the disease Batswana do not take it seriously like they do with AIDS.