Zoleka Mandela: ‘I’m a survivor’

Zoleka Mandela

Photography: Martin de Kock. Styling: Jess/Lupton/One League.

Zoleka Mandela shares her experience and lessons learned from struggling with and overcoming breast cancer.

She’s a firebrand and a fighter. The 37-years-old battled with drug, alcohol and sexual addiction, overcame sexual abuse as a child and lost two children. But after all this heartbreak she has also triumphed by fighting breast cancer.

This is the second time Zoleka has fought cancer. The cancer returned while she was on aftercare medication, just a few days before she and partner, Thierry Bashala, were scheduled for an appointment at a fertility clinic.

Currently on aftercare, which means taking a pill every day and getting a Zoladex injection every three months, Zoleka says she can’t really move without feeling discomfort or pain. But, she says she’s fortunate.

‘I haven’t been to a single doctor’s appointment without a family member or Thierry. People ask me why I consider myself lucky when I’ve been through so much but the way I think about it is that so many people have so much to gain from my losses.

Under the Zoleka Mandela Foundation, every Friday morning Zoleka and a few volunteers distribute food refreshments and offer encouraging words of support to cancer patients. They’ve since fed over 5 000 patients since they started in 2016.

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