Lebani Tapiwa Mazhani was diagnosed with stage-two salivary gland cancer as a 24-year-old after a tumor was found on her cheek during a dental check-up. The outlook was not good as the cancer was very aggressive.
She was unable to open her mouth wide, the left side of her face was constantly numb and she could not eat some foods because she had very little saliva. She underwent gruelling treatment that included surgery on her mouth and neck, chemotherapy and radiation.
She survived to tell her story through a book titled Facing Cancer from under a Mask, meant to bring hope and inspiration to other cancer patients. In the book, Mazhani shares her despair after the diagnosis, her decision to fight the disease head on and the journey that she went through until she found hope. The book also details Mazhani’s 12-month battle with cancer and how it completely changed her outlook on life.
“Mine is a story of hope in despair. I want to share this story with Botswana and the world so that we can work together to fight cancer, a disease that is affecting families all over the world,” she says.
Mazhani is still a cancer patient and cancer education awareness activist. Through her work, she has inspired and supported dozens of patients, families and caregivers. Now a household name in homes struck by cancer, she has also shared her experiences on several online platforms, including the internationally acclaimed MTV Staying Alive Foundation.
She was a key speaker at the 2016 Botswana Health and Wellness Expo, where she appealed for policy reform and support to combat cancer. She also works closely with the Princess Marina Oncology Department, Gaborone Private Hospital and the Cancer Association of Botswana, supporting patients, raising awareness, giving the hope needed to survive treatment and encouraging early detection.
Mazhani is still undergoing treatment herself, as her disease is not yet in remission.
She is, however, living a full and meaningful life despite the side effects. While battling cancer, she managed to complete her studies for a bachelor of law degree at the University of Botswana. She now aspires to pursue her master’s in medical law to become better equipped to help patients, doctors and policy developers in Botswana.
“We need more support and more awareness about cancer. We need to educate people about cancer just as we did with HIV,” says Mazhani.
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