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Cindy Carter survived Cervical Cancer with Chemotherapy and Radium Radiation Therapy - South Africa


In today’s Cancer Interviews episode, we learn how Cindy Carter of Germiston, South Africa survived cervical cancer with chemotherapy and Radium radiation therapy.


Not only has she survived a diagnosis of cervical cancer, but she tells host Bruce Morton she has gone on to make it her life’s work to help others battling the disease.  While people worldwide have chosen the same path as Cindy, her story is unique because of the role played by children, some she raised and some she had never met.


Cindy’s cancer journey began when, while breastfeeding her son, she started feeling unusually tired.  She felt it necessary to seek medical attention.  That led to a series of tests and a biopsy.  Not long after, Cindy was summoned to the doctor’s office and told to bring her husband along.  That’s when her doctor informed her that the biopsy had revealed Cindy had cervical cancer.  Not long after that, Cindy and her husband met with her doctor who assured them this type of cancer was curable.  He said Cindy should just stay calm, but that was easier said than done as she felt her life had been turned upside down.


She found herself taking a different look at her life.  For her, the cervical cancer diagnosis was a game-changer because she feared she could die, a fear that left her in shock.  She wondered how she would handle a regimen of chemotherapy and/or radium.  Cindy said the uncertainty in the days and weeks following her diagnosis was overwhelming.


Her post-diagnosis journey began when she went in for tests to see if kidneys could handle the treatment regimen.  There was a waiting period between the conclusion of these tests and the start of the regimen, a waiting period that lasted months.  Cindy found this interim period very troubling because she feared while she was waiting her cervical cancer could be getting worse. 


It was determined that Cindy could go forth with the treatment.  She also learned she would have to undergo chemotherapy treatment but would first begin a radium treatment regimen. 


Cindy said the treatment began with a computerized search to determine just where the cancer was, then applying radiation from a variety of different angles.  At first, she didn’t feel much of anything as a result of the treatment, but by the sixth visit, she could feel pain and her bladder became infected.  Also, she said one is not allowed to have water on one’s skin because during the regimen, the skin is like paper.  This regimen was not pleasant.  Cindy said she experienced discoloration of her skin, a burning bladder and blood infections.


As for chemotherapy treatment, Cindy said she didn’t lose her hair, but it was very unpleasant and that is how her support network came to her rescue.  It was a support network that included children.  At the hospital, she would see children, see their suffering and see just how courageous they were with their lack of complaining.  She says that was the turning point for her, as, aided by their inspiration, she told herself to stay positive and never give up. 


Once she was discharged from the hospital, she received outstanding support from her four children.  That said, Cindy was relieved that it was she with cancer and not one of her children, as she wondered how they would handle a cancer diagnosis.


Cindy was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2005 and in 2006, her test results indicated she was in remission.  She said the news was such an indescribable relief.


By way of advice for others, Cindy Carter says it is so important to maintain a positive attitude, listen to your doctors, always have questions for him or her and make sure you get them answered.  She says cancer patients should always go to their appointments, speak to other survivors.


Additional Resources:


Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA):


Bruce Morton: We already know a cancer diagnosis is devastating.  But in the case of our guest on this episode her journey was made a bit easier by…children.  She is Cindy Carter of Primrose Hill, Germiston in South Africa.  She survived cervical cancer, and kids provided aid, some she raised, and some she’d never met.  This is the Cancer Interviews podcast and I’m your host, Bruce Morton.  Now let’s hear Cindy’s story, and Cindy, welcome to Cancer Interviews.


Cindy Carter: Thank you so much, Bruce.  It’s so nice to be here.


BM: Cindy, we want to start our interview the way we always do.  So, if you would, tell us a bit about your life away from cancer.  Where are you from, what do you do for work and what do you do for fun?


CC: Like you mentioned, Bruce, I am from Germiston, South Africa, and I work for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).  I have been with them since 2010, and it is such a privilege to be a cancer survivor and then by there for visitors every day, people that are newly diagnosed. 


BM: Cindy, the cancer journey generally starts when we notice something tied to our health that goes from normal to abnormal.  In your case, when did you notice something different?


CC: I was still breastfeeding my little son, then you start feeling tired.  So, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup.  It was such a shock when he said they had detected something, and they would need to do some tests, and that led to a biopsy, which led to my diagnosis of cervical cancer.  It shocked me.


BM: And once that horrific news set in, how did you deal with it?


CC: The doctor actually asked my husband to come and see me, and I was surprised to see my husband coming from work during the day.  They sat me down and said and told me I had cancer.  That same evening, we went to the home of my doctor, where he explained everything.  He told me my cancer was curable.  He said I should just stay calm, but it was like a 360-degree turn.  It is like you are on another planet.  It is life-changing, and your perspective changes. 


BM: And how did your perspective change?


CC: You just look at life differently.  You know, people worry about finances and small things that you worry about in your daily life.  This was so life-changing because you feel like you might die from this disease, it’s such a shock.  I wondered how I would do with these treatments, what are they going to give me?  And are they going to give chemo or radium, and if so, what is going to happen to me?  It’s that uncertainty that gets you in the beginning.

BM: We’re confident you’ll be able to learn some tips and tools to help you through your personal cancer journey, but first we’d like to invite you to please give us a ‘like,’ leave a comment or review below and share this story with your friends.  Kindly click on the Subscribe button below and click on the bell icon , so you’ll be notified the next time we release a cancer interview.  And if you are facing a cancer diagnosis, please click on the link in the Show Notes below to check out our free guide, “The Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I First Got Cancer.”


And Cindy Carter, in terms of your first getting cancer, that meant that you cancer had to be treated.  If you would, describe for us what your treatment regimen was like.


CC: It started with going in for tests to see if your kidneys can handle the treatment.  Then going from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital.  I was in the government’s system, meaning I wasn’t a private patient.  It was quite a journey to have all these tests done and then to actually start the treatment.  There was such a waiting period for you to start your treatment.  That was such a scary part because I now had to wait for a few months, and I am thinking this cancer is going to get worse and I wondered what would happen to me.  My doctor actually wrote a letter to the other doctors.  I don’t even know what was in the letter, but it must have made a difference because they set up a meeting with me and from there things accelerated.  They explained I would get radium and then once a week, chemo.


BM: We have heard from various guests about their experiences with chemo.  With radium, not so much.  If you would tell our listeners and viewers what radium treatment is like.


CC: Obviously, they treat the bottom part of your body with cervical cancer.  They pinpoint where the tumor is, a search that is computerized.  Getting radium at first was really not that bad.  You lie down and this huge machine moves over your body and moves all around, then stops over your tummy and they radiate the tumor from different angles with this machine.  Then it’s over and you wonder to yourself, “Is that it?  It was so quick and I didn’t feel anything,” and then, off you go.  But after say, the sixth time, you can really feel the radium.  It intensifies, and your bladder gets infected, but not too much.  People react differently to chemo and to radium.  Also, you are not allowed to have water on your skin because your skin is like paper.  There could be discoloration of the skin, so your skin is very sensitive with radium.  You can have burning bladder, blood infections and things like that.  It is a journey that you have to go through.  I’d say that the radium was worse than the chemo, but not initially.  Only when it intensifies, as it did near the end.  For me, that was worse.  I did not lose my hair at all, but that is different with different types of cancer.  Obviously, there are different cocktails.


BM: Okay, with respect to the chemo, it’s never pleasant.  It’s different for everyone who gets it.  But for you, undergoing chemo, what was the toughest part?


CC: Having the blood tests done the day before having the chemo.  That’s because when looking at your blood, they look at various things.  They have to decide if you are going to get chemo the next day.  A few times the blood wasn’t right, so I had to sit there and wait a couple of hours before they could do the chemo.  For some people, I would never forget their experiences.  There was this one guy who had brain cancer and he was sitting next to me and a bunch of us had to wait that day.  For him, it was so terrible, and he just lost it, he just wanted to leave, he just wanted to give up because sometimes it is very frustrating.  Towards the end you feel like you can’t do this anymore.  That’s where your support structure comes in, your family and friends that really support you.


BM: Let’s talk about support and when you were in the hospital, you were on the receiving end of support from perhaps an unlikely source.  How was your journey, when you were in the hospital, affected by the presence of children.


CC: Here you are, feeling very sorry for yourself.  You wonder, “Why me?”  Then you see all these little children there.  They are just going about their business, playing and coloring.  They are undergoing chemo, they are sick children, and you think, here they are, just taking it, yet here you are, complaining, and you’re so much older.  It was just an inspiration for me, seeing these children.  That, I think, was a turning point for me to be more positive and to tell myself I am going to get through this.  This also allows me to help children by making their wigs for them.  We support the children and their parents.  It is so great that we can help them.


BM: Sticking with the pleasant topic of children, once you were discharged from the hospital, your treatment regimen continued at home.  Within your four walls, what kind of support did you get from your kids?


CC: I have four children, so my oldest son said I’d be fine.  The younger children didn’t understand much, but one of my younger sons was very upset because he was very sensitive.  To me, I said to myself, thank goodness it ‘s me and not one of my children because I can handle this, but I don’t think I could handle having a child with cancer.  So many parents go through this every day with their children, and they are just heroes. 


BM: Eventually, your journey took a turn for the better.  Could you describe that was like when you could sense yourself advancing toward remission?


CC: Moving to the farm, enjoying fresh air and fresh juices, working the garden and getting a bit of sun, that meant a world of difference to me, and going for the checkups and getting the test results saying it is clear that I am entering remission.  To hear that, it was such a relief!  It is indescribable, and I think every survivor feels like that.  It’s wonderful.  I was diagnosed in 2005 and went into remission in 2006, with the chemo, with the radium they gave me, it was successful.  Here I am after all these years.  I am healthy.  I have some issues, sometimes with my bones after the treatments.  My feet were very sore, but that’s different for everybody.  I say, just be positive.  A positive take on life is good.


BM: In terms of the here and now, if you compare yourself pre-diagnosis to today, how is your everyday physical life different?


CC: I do have some issues.  After the radium, it was also that they burned the tumor.  Also, when you eat, some things may change.  After the chemo I became allergic to eggs.  I cannot have them anymore.  But that’s a small thing, you know, and I have got a bit of arthritis, so life can be challenging sometimes, but I am awfully thankful that I have survived this long, and I can be with my family and see my kids grow up.  It’s just awesome.  I can also support other cancer survivors.


BM: Now, let’s talk about the Cancer Association of South Africa because you see what it does from two perspectives, what it does for you and what it does for others.  What has CANSA done for you?


CC: I had to stay at a care home for seven weeks.  On the weekends you can go home, but during the week, you have to be there every day for your treatment.  You cannot miss or skip any treatments.  I stayed at a care home in Durbin, and they cared for CANSA’s cancer patients.  You can have breakfast there, you can get transport if you need it, and patients that cannot afford it, they will help you.  What CANSA did was so awesome.  Some people live in rural areas and have to get up very early in the morning to get to hospitals.  They don’t have these facilities close by.  This was the same for me.  I was a couple of hours from the hospital, so I had to stay over at the care center.  I met the most wonderful survivors and the cancer staff.  At that time, I wasn’t working for CANSA.  To me they made a world of difference.  They offered a lot of support and made the journey so much easier.


BM: CANSA, through its website,, can be of assistance to those going through a cancer journey in a variety of ways.  Tell us more.


CC: You can find all the care homes.  TLC homes for the children, and parents can stay over.  CANSA has services for very poor people.  For those needing one, you can get a wig from the Cancer Association.  We’ve helped so many ladies.  And children.  It is important that people leave CANSA better than when they came in.  We help with prosthetics and stoma bags.  There is a shortage of stoma bags for those who cannot afford them.  Our wonderful nurses will see these stoma patients and show them how to use the bags.  It’s life-changing things that happen to people, and they have to get used to all these bags. 


BM: Cindy, we are going to wrap up now, and while we begin our interviews in the same fashion, we conclude them the same way as well.  If you encountered someone who had just been diagnosed with cervical cancer, there might be many things you would want to share with them; but if there was one thought, one point you wanted to make sure they remembered, what would it be?


CC: It would be to stay positive.  Listen to your doctor.  Don’t just Google to get all your information.  Go to the CANSA web page.  Look at the fact sheets.  Get all the information you can.  Ask your doctor.  Speak to other survivors.  Join CANSA’s survivor group, the Champions of Hope, on Facebook.  We share stories and information.  Stay positive and believe that there is always hope.  For anyone else listening, go for your checkups.  If you feel there is something wrong, if you notice something that doesn’t look right, go see your doctor.  Visit our website.


BM: Excellent.  Cindy, thank you very much for sharing your story.  It is a story that is informative and inspirational and we want to thank, by extension, all those children who made your journey a bit easier.  Cindy, thanks very much for being with us on Cancer Interviews


CC: Thank you, Bruce.  Thank you for having me.


BM: And we will say all the time when we conclude, that if you or a loved one are on a cancer journey, you are not alone.  There are people like Cindy and organizations like CANSA that can make your cancer journey a bit easier.  So, until next time, we’ll see you on down the road.


Additional Resources:


Cancer Association of South Africa















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