Monday, 31 July 2017

Celebrate Women - Young cancer survivor Jenna Skews

Twinsaver Celebrate Women in August - Jenna Skews
Twinsaver honours special Women in August with a special edition pack supporting breast cancer survivors by donating a portion of the 9-pack to charity.

The story of  one of the young survivors, Jenna Skews, hits very close to home. Our Eldest also had to deal with finding a lump in her breast. It was a big shock, as we realized that 18 year olds can get breast cancer! The first diagnoses was that is was non-malignant, and that we should not even worry. Luckily we got a second opinion, and now we know that she cannot ignore it, and needs to check it regularly. So far the fibroadenoma has not increased in size, and the hope is that it will disappear after a few years. But we cannot ignore it! It needs to be checked!


I sent through a few questions of my own to Jenna to hear about her journey with cancer.
Jenna Skews discovered she had malignant Phyllodes tumor at the start of her matric year. Jenna was scared and confused as to why this was happening to her at the tender age of 17. Jenna was told her tumor was a sarcoma, meaning no radiation or chemotherapy was needed. However, she was later informed she had to have a mastectomy done to remove all possible threat of malignant cells.
Jenna, did you ever think you would get cancer being so young?

No, I did not think I would get Cancer so young. We all think ‘It will never happen to us’ – until it does happen to you, you in your matric year and completely shocked. Matric students don’t worry about getting breast cancer. Rather, their worries are passing your maths prelim, the boy you like and if you parent are going to allow you to go to that upcoming party.

What was the emotions you struggled with when diagnosed.

Once diagnosed, it all started with complete shock. It wasn’t real, this wasn’t happening to me. I went on autopilot. I had to get through my first week of matric and prepare myself for a mastectomy. Generally I went through the motions, and just did what I needed to in order to get by – I was on autopilot. It was only after my surgeries, once I was cleared that I started dealing with the emotional side of what I had been through.

Tell us a little bit about you surviving cancer? (The journey to healing)

I was very lucky, I did not need chemo and radiation. After my necessary surgeries I was healthy. Emotionally it took me longer to regain my strength, confidence and ability to function normally in society. Through my matric year I only shared my full story with a handful of people. My fellow scholars did not know what I was going through and I wanted it that way. School students don’t normally have to deal with cancer. I did not want to be known as the cancer girl, or have people’s sympathy. For this reason I withdrew myself. Whilst my fellow students were worrying about prelims, I was worry about prelims and the reconstructive surgery I was going to be having in my June holidays.

It was once I started getting involved with the Breast Health Foundation that I realised I did not need to hide my cancer journey. My ‘coming out moment’ was at the 2012 Avon Justine Ithemba Walkathon. I told my story as the opening speech to the walk. It was a stressful and wonderful moment for me. Ever since, I have done multiple speeches, articles, campaigns all in support of Cancer. Sharing my story was the greatest way for me to heal.

What is your advice to young people about cancer?

My advice to young people would be that the world is changing and you are not immune; do not think that it won’t happen to you because you are young. Cancers that are only thought to develop in older generations are showing up in younger generations. Be aware of your health, go for regular check-ups. Ladies, as soon as you meet aunt flow, do self-examinations every month. Men, you are not immune either! You have breast tissue, and therefore, you should be doing self-examinations. Pay attention to your health and do not take it for granted.

What is your future goals?

My future goals are to live a happy and healthy life. That may seem a bit generalised but staying true to it in today’s age is very difficult. I am in the process of planning a travel adventure. I try to always make the absolute best of the present moment.


Thanks, Jenna, for sharing with us. You are an inspiration!


Watch out for the Twinsaver special edition packs in stores this August! The Cancer Association Of South Africa (CANSA) has been selected as the beneficiary.

Twinsaver special edition 9-pack with a lightly scented core and bright packaging

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