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#FindYourWingz: My Cancer Journey Taught Me to Appreciate My Own Strength

Following the devastating news that her breast cancer had returned, Charmaine Appelgryn (53), has found strength in her cancer journey rather than letting it beat her. She is a testament to what it means to find her wings and in-spite of still undergoing treatment, she will walking in this year’s SPAR Women’s Challenge with her daughters by her side.

Charmaine was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and after receiving chemo therapy and undergoing a double mastectomy, she was hopeful that the ordeal was behind her. “I was remission for just over two years when the cancer came back again. This time the diagnosis was stage-4 cancer which meant that 15 months of very intense weekly chemo therapy lay ahead,” Charmaine explains. This was the beginning of a long journey with numerous challenges to come. All of which Charmaine faced with a strength and endurance that would help her find her wings in the face of every new obstacle that would come up on her journey to recovery.

Charmaine was determined to make a full recovery from the moment she heard her first diagnosis – and this determination never wavered in spite of what the future had in store for her. “With every diagnosis you take the news differently. Sometimes it can feel more disappointing than motivating. But strength comes from the heart and that motivates you to remain strong and have faith that God walks this path with you with a bigger and better purpose for the future.”

In March 2017 a lump developed between Charmaine’s breasts but was fortunately central enough for Radiation therapy which lead to another stage of remission. As part of this treatment regime, Charmaine was hormone medication but after three months the doctors discovered that her lymph nodes were growing – a sign that the medication was not working and that the cancer was still growing. Charmaine was then prescribed another round of chemo medication for three months. In spite of the toll that this extensive treatment had taken on her health and the fact that her body had become tired of the constant medication which led to a low immune system, Charmaine was delivered the blow of yet another diagnosis. In March 2018 she was diagnosed with stage-4 lymph cancer.

Charmaine says that the experience has taught her to appreciate the smaller things in life in a more profound way. “This journey has thought me to be humble, to appreciate every little thing around me, to notice the sun rising in the morning and to appreciate the beauty of the moon at night. Even though my wings have been broken through this journey, finding my wings again came about by realising that I am a beautiful woman with the position to encourage other women to see the beauty within themselves even though their wings might be broken.”

She is currently undergoing chemo therapy every three weeks and so far, the results are encouraging. Charmaine says that her lymph nodes are shrinking and that the cancer is slowly disappearing. This encouraging progress will see Charmaine taking part in the Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge this year – the first time since 2013. “I am very excited to be walking the 5km with my three daughters this year. They remind me daily that I am a strong woman and that I have the courage to fight cancer no matter what. They also allow me to have my down moments because sometimes when you are in a dark place and you feel like you’ve been buried. This is why is important for us to help others to find their wings. We should all uplift the strong women around us. We have to remind each other of our inner beauty, courage and the capability to look a challenge dead in the eye and give it a wink.”

Charmaine’s message to all the other women out there who are fighting the cancer battle is to use the experience to equip yourself with armour that will help you find and keep your wings. “Any women fighting cancer should wear the armour of positivity, faith, a strong will to survive and gratitude.”

The Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge takes place on 4 August 2018 at SuperSport Stadium in Centurion. Entries are available at selected SPAR stores and online at sparladiespta.co.za. For more information, to stay on top of the latest race news, enter exciting competitions and to show your support, Like the SPAR Women’s Challenge Pretoria Facebook Page or follow @SPARladiespta on Twitter.






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