Project Flamingo — the rainbow after breast cancer

Dr Lwazi Nongoggo is passionate about helping patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. He is part of Project Flamingo and does breast cancer surgeries at Livingstone Hospital
DEDICATED SUPPORTER: Dr Lwazi Nongoggo is passionate about helping patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. He is part of Project Flamingo and does breast cancer surgeries at Livingstone Hospital
Image: Supplied

The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better a patient’s chance of successful treatment and survival.

With this in mind, surgeons, radiologists, radiographers, and nursing staff, a part of Project Flamingo, have gone above and beyond by devoting their free time to assist cancer patients on their journey.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the focus is on raising awareness about the impact of breast cancer.

The Project Flamingo team in Gqeberha celebrated a milestone recently when it held its first Catch Up Breast Clinic at Livingstone Hospital.

In the past, the focus has primarily been on timely breast cancer surgery, but that was until Dr Lwazi Nongoggo noticed there was a big delay in patients getting their diagnosis.

The delay was worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, creating a large backlog for the breast clinic.

Nongoggo wasted no time in organising the clinic to consult with patients and, among others, assist with mammograms.

A total 52 patients showed up to be seen.

It led to 13 patients receiving the diagnosis they would have otherwise had to wait for.

Project Flamingo founder Dr Liana Roodt said the early diagnosis of breast cancer was vital because patients could not get the care they needed without it.

An early diagnosis also means those who need it can get access to timely breast cancer surgery.

Roodt said surgeries could involve a mastectomy, tumour removals or reconstruction.

At Livingstone Hospital the waiting period for breast cancer surgeries has also become dire due to the pandemic, with patients waiting up to 12 weeks.

To date, more than 30 such surgeries have been done at the hospital, free of charge. 

Denise Philander's journey with breast cancer started in August 2020.

The 53-year-old did not experience any pain.

She had only felt a lump while being due for a mammogram.

The results of an excision confirmed Philander had stage 3 breast cancer and that she would have to undergo chemotherapy.

“I went through all of the stages of grief.

“It takes a while for everything to sink in or to get to the acceptance stage.

“I have always considered myself a spiritual person and a self-motivator.

“This helped me get my act together.”

Philander adopted a healthier lifestyle, which helped her get through her treatment plan.

Chemotherapy sessions brought about many changes and side effects to her body, including hair loss.

“After that, I prepared for the next step, which was to have an operation to remove the lymph nodes to be tested for cancer.

“On April 15, I got the unfortunate news that it tested positive for cancer.”

Since then, Philander has undergone radiation and will now have to wait until January to hear whether she is cancer-free.

“Whatever happens, I am content with whatever God decides the outcome will be.

“In whatever we go through there is always a lesson.

“The support from my family and friends has been phenomenal,” she said.

Project Flamingo improves inclusive cancer care in the SA public health sector through ongoing national cancer advocacy, expanding critical resource availability and contributing compassionate care.

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