Fotini Domnakis

My name is Fotini Domnakis and I am 47 years old.

My journey with cancer started with my Mum having cancer. I was convinced something was wrong, and she wouldn’t go to a Doctor. She was relatively healthy for many years. I called our family Surgeon, spoke to him and told him my concern and made an appointment. He prescribed a sleeping tablet to me. Told me to put 1 in her tea the night before the appointment and another in her drink the morning of her appointment. We got “ready for work” and left home at the correct time. I bypassed her office, and she didn’t fight me. Said, “where are we going?”, and when I told her, she said “okay”. She was obviously very calm from the sedatives.

The doctor examined her and did a needle biopsy straight away. He told me to take her home and he would call. She was petrified. I went into a mode I never knew existed. Shielded her from the phone call that might be. Just made her comfortable. I told her everything would be fine. What did I know?

The call came that night, this doctor worked fast and was an amazing general surgeon, it was a rare type of breast cancer. He wanted to operate, and she would be fine.

He told us to come the next day. We did, sent us for chest x-rays, ultrasound, and blood. Booked the surgery for the Friday, it was Wednesday. We did all the necessary and then waited. Took mum to the hospital early on Friday, she was going to have a mastectomy. The doctor came out after surgery, said all went well and she would be fine. I asked, “what about Chemo and Radiation?”. He said not necessary Those days, (16.5 years ago) they didn’t do a sentinel lymph biopsy. I think because he knew it was a Phyllodes tumor, he was confident no further treatments

We visited him every 3 months and just before the 9-month visit Mum woke up one Tuesday morning, said, “feel here…”. I called the doctor, he said to go straight away. 1 little lump, 2 cm had appeared on the same side of the mastectomy. We started again. Chest x-ray, ultrasound, blood. Booked surgery for the next morning. This time after surgery, Doctor said, I think we need to do 20 radiation treatments.  We didn’t give her a minute to think, “I have/had cancer and I am going to die.” We rallied around her. She was scared but I was at her side and held her hand through it all. Till her 10 year clearance, when her Oncologist retired and mum was told, no more visits needed.

In 2009 I met Bridget at a Breast Cancer function in Boksburg. We chatted at her table. In 2010, walking into JNB Zoo for an Angels walking for Cancer walk, there stood Bridget, who remembered me, and called me down to chat and met Mum. We kept in touch, attended Wings of Hope meetings, and in 2012 I was asked to join the Mancom team. I served alongside a bunch of warriors. After about a year into my helping, I was overwhelmed with other commitments and stepped off Mancom. I continued to support any way we could, and we attended meetings and the Avon Walk each year. In 2018, I received a call from Nersan who was now Chair of Wings of Hope and he asked me to consider joining Mancom again. I didn’t hesitate. I had time, the other commitments were over and done with and I had a passion for helping.

Fast forward to 30th January 2019. Mum and I went to our yearly Mammogram and sonar. Mum was all clear. Our doctor, Dr. Ritz was away with a family emergency that day and her locum come in, “Miss Domnakis, your mammogram is clear. Great news.” Does the sonar and says to me, ”there is something here, nothing serious I don’t think, come back in 6 months, um, actually, I think you need to go for a breast invasive MRI soon.”  If I wasn’t lying down, I would have collapsed. I said to here, “what is it?”.  Her answer, “I am sure it is nothing, but let’s make sure, a 7 mm lump. Doesn’t look “angry” but let us get it seen to.”

Instant dislikes to this woman, but if she hadn’t been so insistent and changed her mind, I may not be writing this story.  I wasn’t happy with her “bedside manner” and called my Doctor the next day. She insisted I come in again the next day for another Sonar. This time she was there, alongside another doctor.

They too were convinced it was NOTHING, and just to be safe, have the MRI and go from there. The longest wait 11 days to get to this MRI. Had it done at Little Company of Mary? Was invited up to the Doctor’s consulting rooms, he said, he was sure it was nothing, but to please have a Biopsy. Then another wait.

Subsequently, visited my GP 2 days later, I explained what happened, and he pulled the biopsy results. I could see on his face, the news was cancer. He spent 2 hours drawing pictures, talking to me, and explaining. I had Stage 1, breast cancer.

Immediately I rallied. I had the best support team. Family and friends who became family. I cannot thank the people who held my hand enough. My immediate family, my Wings Family, my friends. I got myself a pair of socks with some choice words on them and gave cancer the message, and it was evicted I was blessed with a modality of doctors who had my best interest at heart. Know you have choices. Don’t settle for the 1st doctor you see. If you not happy, keep searching. I had a Lumpectomy and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, 11th March and although it was all out, the doctor felt a mastectomy would be best, it was Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is non-invasive breast cancer. Ductal means that cancer starts inside the milk ducts, carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues (including breast tissue) that cover or line the internal organs, and in situ means “in its original place.”, but as he was not happy with the sight of the breast tissue. 2 days later, he confirmed his thoughts with pathology reports. Back to the hospital and 22nd March, I was clear.

I went from being a supporter and caregiver to a SURVIVOR, and am grateful for healing.  Because the surgeon took this radical approach, I didn’t require chemo or radiation and I am on Tamoxifen for 5 to 10 years. I had my 1-year check-up in February 2020, and Dr. Ritz said, “see you in a year.”

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