Meet Miriam Moses. A ‘Mamma-Afrika’ at heart. A modern, understated woman with a zest for life! One looks at her and see the best of both worlds; a soft persona that hits the sweet spot and of course, a precious gem, hidden deep within the perfect storm. When you listen closely, her heart beats a drum; you can hear her song, for she sings joyfully all day long.
During 2006, Miriam went for a normal check-up with her GP doctor. “After thoroughly examining me, my doctor said that something looked suspicious and I was sent for a biopsy. A lump was found in one of my breasts, however it was not malicious. Nonetheless I asked for it to be removed.”
“This exercise kept me on my toes, and I have been going for my yearly mammogram check-ups ever since.”
9 Years later, on the 22nd of December 2015 at the age of 48 years, another lump was found in Miriam’s breast. On that very same day of her normal mammogram check-up, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in her left breast. “I decided that our lives won’t stop because I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. We knew we had to face it and make the best of the situation.” Miriam’s devoted husband, Juri was with her every step of the way. Two weeks later the lump was removed.
Miriam explains her first thoughts as she received her diagnosis: “When you think of Cancer, you can’t help but think of death. I thought I was healthy, and thus the reason why I was so taken aback by the overwhelming news.” As the doctor revealed her diagnosis, Miriam admits; “every single word just flew passed me. I was in utter shock!” Miriam was diagnosed with Category 1 Breast Cancer at the time, which is a very aggressive form within the diagnosis. “It was only when I stopped at home and my daughter came running towards me with desperate hope in her eyes, asking what the outcome was, when the reality sunk in as I had to convey the news of my diagnosis to her. I was honestly heartbroken. Many hidden tears that was not revealed to friends and family, was shed in the dark. Even though I knew they would understand, instead of showing how honestly heartbroken I was, I took the loved ones around me into consideration to try and spare their emotions by not allowing them to see what the news actually did to me.”
Miriam is a research worker at the University of Cape Town. She worked full time during her treatment. “Two weeks after the lump was removed, I had four Chemotherapy sessions three weeks apart, followed by another six weeks of radiation. The chemotherapy made me very nauseous and left me with extreme fatigue. It wasn’t easy, I had to keep my pose. The staff at the St. Stephen’s Oncology Centre really went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as possible. Some days the Chemotherapy was extremely challenging as my veins fell flat and they could not get a proper vein to start the treatment. I had to endure the excessive pinching of needles into my skin until they could find a proper vein. I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was extremely painful. My sister was my rock during the time of the treatment. Finally, I had a mastectomy in my left breast. During these tough times, I always had a song that was mounted in my heart and carried me. This made me rejoice in the victory that was mine for the taking.
“I used the time in the Chemo room proactively to reflect on my life. I needed to take stock. I had to get perspective on where I was and what I still wanted to accomplish in my life.”
The look in Miriam’s eyes intensifies along with the story of her journey; “The process has made me realise that I have so much to be thankful for. I might as well not have made it this far, and this chilling reality makes it so clear that I was blessed with the chance to make things right that I took roll call on during my chemotherapy treatment. She smiles: “Life and health is precious. Over a period of time, we get so used to life, that we just assume that our routine is natural because we get used to it. It could so easily have all been different thinking that I could not have been here anymore. I look at my precious family, loving husband and beautiful kids, and I am so grateful that I am still alive.”
“So many days, I felt down and it was such an eye opening experience to feel the difference that one smile or kind gesture from a stranger meant. This inherently changed me, as I was inspired to start actively making a change in one person’s life every day. I decided to start paying it forward.”
Her advice to any person supporting a loved one through this process: “The only thing that can bring support is someone’s presence. There is an unspoken selflessness in the kind gesture of a loved one just sitting in silence next to you. Words come only later, but silent physical gestures bring a small sense of comfort in the moment and delivers a gentle reassurance that you are not alone.”
“You make your mark in life, by choosing to be a blessing to others. Life isn’t about the glitter and gold, it’s about the impact during the refining process that leaves people changed for the better.”
Miriam, the ‘soul-singer’ reflects on her bucket list for the future; “I still want to go to the Kruger National Park and I would love to see the colourful ‘Namaqualand Daisies’. So many people go for holidays abroad, when they miss out on the opportunity to be well travelled in our own beautiful country! We are busy building and renovating our home. I want to see the fulfilment of the final product. I want to stay in my own country and enjoy myself and my family. I want to see myself grow old here.”
She reflects nostalgically on the past year; “I am so thankful for all the people that crossed my path, especially Felicity and Charmaine. We all have a story and if you can use your story to uplift someone else, you should do exactly just that. The time we have is so limited and so precious. Before you see, the hour glass has run out and your time will be up.”
“Gold doesn’t just happen to be gold. It is only when it goes through the fire that it becomes its purest form. This is how I see my story. I had to undergo a refining process to become my best.”
That is what life is all about for Miriam; “I never asked why me.”