Chaikhwa Nani Lobatse may have lost one of her legs to cancer, but it didn’t stop her from becoming a nurse and completing her master’s degree in the U.K.
In November 2013, Lobatse consulted a doctor after experiencing pain and swelling in her left leg. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
“I was in disbelief. My symptoms matched that of bone cancer, and that’s what the doctor suspected after doing the biopsy, so I was expecting it, but it was just hard to believe,” she said. “I think that was the saddest day of my life. I just had a lot of fear, especially the outcome, because I didn’t understand much about this type of cancer and cancer in general.”
Chaikhwa details the challenges she faced and how she decided to fight for herself. With a great support system, she was able to push herself and give herself a chance.
“It wasn’t smooth but wasn’t the hardest either. I had a strong support system, so it made me feel better, that feeling of not fighting alone,” she says, adding that she finally decided on the amputation as the pain became worse.
“The surgeon planned above-knee amputation, but I was not ready. I couldn’t think of a life without a leg, but after some time, I decided to amputate it because the lump was getting bigger and the pain worsened. I took six cycles of chemotherapy; the side effects of chemotherapy made the journey very hard.”
After five years of consistently having clear scans, she started to feel more confident that she had survived.
“I’m still following up with the oncologist. They normally do some investigations such as chest X-rays annually to check if there is no disease,” she adds.
Despite all the challenges she faced, the registered nurse was still able to pursue her dreams. After completing her Higher Diploma in General Nursing at Francistown Institute of Health Sciences, she graduated from the University of South Africa (2017-2019) with a BA in Nursing Science.
In 2021, she was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study for a Master of Science in Clinical Oncology at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2022.
She became an oncology nurse to provide care and support to patients with cancer.
“I always wanted to do trauma nursing, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m glad I developed a passion for working with cancer patients. I was misdiagnosed several times, and I believe it was because of inadequate knowledge about osteosarcoma by the clinicians. I then decided to be one of the people who will close this gap by raising awareness on cancer and providing support for cancer patients,” she says.
“Knowledge is power, and with adequate knowledge, one can make informed decisions about one’s health or a patient. In 2014, I requested to be transferred to an oncology department, and we formed a cancer support group to raise awareness of cancer. We also provided emotional support to cancer patients and their caregivers,” she shares.
“Acceptance is not easy, but again, it is not impossible. There is more to fighting than giving up because the results of giving up are obvious. We all didn’t know how it would end, but hope kept us going.”
Lobatse advises patients to know they are not fighting alone: “Talk to someone who can motivate you or find a support group. Cancer treatment’s side effects are temporary, so keep pushing until the end.”