Local Heroes 2023: Cancer diagnosis marked new beginning for Sam Ramsay
While some may view a cancer diagnosis as possibly the end to one’s life, it marked a new beginning for an East London woman who was inspired to start a charity for others walking the same path.
Sam Ramsay was diagnosed with breast cancer about three years ago, and while the news was devastating to her and all those close to her, the determined warrior turned her situation into an inspiring story that has touched the lives of others.
During her own challenging battle with the life-threatening illness, Ramsay noticed gaps in the approach to cancer treatment in SA, prompting her to research integrative methods that include caring for patients emotionally, mentally and physically with complementary and alternative therapies.
From her own experience and research, Ramsay noted a need for support groups for cancer patients, and so started one.
The Sistas support group sees women from all over East London gather monthly to share their experiences and emotional support.
The group of more than 70 women also communicate with one another via WhatsApp.
Ramsay then went on to found her nonprofit organisation, The Cancer Connection, to provide various types of support to more cancer patients and charities.
“The thing about me is that I’m an ideas person, I don’t really take no for an answer and I’m not scared to speak my mind.
“I started the support group for ladies because that’s what I was seeking — support during my initial diagnosis.
“Out of the support group came the bigger picture, which is an actual registered NPO [The Cancer Connection] and through the ladies in the support group I have seen all the shortcomings, not just in public care for cancer patients but also in private care,” Ramsay said.
The organisation seeks to facilitate better support systems for cancer patients, ease treatment side-effects naturally and help patients find guidance on integrative and holistic healing, among other interventions.
The Cancer Connection provides holistic support through groups for children and teens, as well as separate adult groups.
The NPO provides patients in active treatment programmes with frozen home-cooked meals, curates care packets containing natural items to aid the healing process and ease their experience, and gives caregivers and patients tool kits to navigate their journey with a focus on optimal mind, body and soul healing.
The thing about me is that I’m an ideas person, I don’t really take no for an answer and I’m not scared to speak my mind.
The tool kits include elements of art, music, dance and relaxation therapy, imagery, reading and storytelling.
Ramsay was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2020 and underwent treatment which included chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy from January to October 2021.
This year she learnt that the disease had metastasised to her bones and she had to undergo new treatment with a Gqeberha oncologist. “I [recently] had half of my rib removed to do a biopsy on the cancer cells,” Ramsay said.
An optimistic Ramsay said her oncologists had a positive outlook on her new treatment.