For most teens, life has its obvious defining moments: being chosen for the school’s first team waterpolo;  asking a pretty girl out (and her saying ‘yes’); hitting a hole in one on the golf course and finally after years of studying, graduating. For me, finding out my mom had Stage 3 breast cancer was a defining moment.

She was diagnosed in November of 2013. I’ll never forget the day my dad arrived at my grade nine leadership camp to break the news that my mother had breast cancer. It was a very emotionally taxing time for all of us. I tried to make sense of it for the first few weeks and spent a lot of time in my room and on the golf course. The thought of my mother’s suffering made me really sad.

Up until then, I had seen myself as a budding wildlife conservationist, happily fund raising for endangered leopard and rhino. I never imagined breast cancer to be my next fundraising cause.

After my mom’s diagnosis, I found out that one in every eight women in South Africa is at risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Only a statistic until a family member is diagnosed with the disease, then it becomes a reality. From not really knowing or having to deal with cancer in my life before, I soon realized that tragically, too many children have been affected by the diagnosis of a family member with breast cancer. My mother’s breast cancer diagnosis meant a rigorous treatment program to save her life. She had to undergo a year of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatment. My mom began her chemo treatments and started losing her hair. I got over the initial shock and started attending her treatments. My mom’s doctor Prof Carol-Ann Benn told me that because her cancer was detected in time, she had a very good chance of a healthy recovery.

Dealing with my mother’s cancer was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. I will never be the same again, but going through the experience with her made me strong and compassionate towards other people and because of it, I like to encourage kids, to in turn encourage their mothers, to get checked, as early detection can ‘save a mother’s life’. It saved my mother’s life.

So far, with the help of generous donors, the HYF has been able to raise substantial funds for breast cancer through the sale and auction of our art donations. Funds raised have been donated to the Breast Health Foundation to aid their facility at the Helen Joseph Hospital, Johannesburg.