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SPAR Women's Challenge

What does beauty mean to you?

Cancer survivor Yolanda Bukani knows it is far more than skin deep

Yolanda Bukani, with hair and make-up by Bliss Hair and Skincare Salon
Yolanda Bukani, with hair and make-up by Bliss Hair and Skincare Salon
Image: Leon Hugo

What does beauty mean to you?

For the women who take part in SA's “most beautiful road race” - the SPAR Women's Challenge, which is also the Eastern Cape's largest all female road- running event – it’s a kaleidoscope.

And for cancer survivor Yolanda Bukani, 30, who performs varying roles as mom, motivational speaker, model – and emcee on race day – beauty is multi-faceted and she is certain of one more thing: beauty is not just skin deep, it starts deep below the surface.

“I know it’s a cliche to say but beauty really does come from within, because when you have inner beauty it does shine out.

“A person can have good looks but not be a beautiful person,” Yolanda said.

When she looks back on her own experience of having battled – and beaten – stage four cancer (lymphoma, a form of leukaemia) she can see it all so clearly.

“When I was in hospital having my cancer treatment I lost all my hair – even my eyebrows and eyelashes – there was no hair at all, everything was gone.

“I was even afraid of walking past the mirror because I felt ugly and I lost my confidence.

“I was a student at the time and my self-esteem was way down.

“I remember wearing a wig on campus and when it was windy, I would not go to lectures as I was afraid my wig would blow away.

“The treatment also made my skin darker and I lost a lot of weight,” Yolanda said.

“The funny thing was that Dr Jackie who treated me said to me ‘you are so beautiful, are you a model?’ and some of the nurses in hospital also asked the same thing.

“I never believed them. It would actually upset me.

Yolanda Bukani, with hair and make-up by Bliss Hair and Skincare Salon
Yolanda Bukani, with hair and make-up by Bliss Hair and Skincare Salon
Image: Leon Hugo

“Now when I look back at the pictures they took in hospital, I am able to see that beauty.

“I didn’t want to look at myself, I actually took the pictures as a diary for my son Jody, who was only a baby then, to see one day.

“The photographs show a beautiful, strong cancer warrior,” Yolanda said.

“I wish I had not hidden away my beauty behind so much make-up and a wig because I WAS beautiful, I just did not realise it at the time.

“On September 2, I will be six years in remission and on that day I am going to shave all my hair off.

“Your beauty is not defined by your looks.

“I had no confidence at that time – I could not own it – and I wish more women would feel confident with their bodies. “It’s important for us to say ‘this is who I am’ because beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.”

For her photographs on this page she shows off a curly blonde look, posing as a flirty minx but she says she will shave off her hair on the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.

But just like the women who will be walking or running alongside her on May 4, she knows beauty springs from within and is shown to the outside world in many different forms.

Yolanda today is fun, bold, confident . . . and beautiful.



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