Sister Zakiyah Abrahams, a chemo sister from Groote Schuur Hospital, shares what it is like working with women fighting breast cancer; her story is an inspiring one.
Cape Town, South Africa (24 October 2022) – As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, the Heroes of Groote Schuur shine a light on the work being done by Sister Zakiyah Abrahams, an Oncology Specialist Registered Nurse. Sister Zakiyah is responsible for administering chemotherapy to the patients at Groote Schuur. She is what they call, a Chemo Sister.
Sister Zakiyah shares her experience of working in the ward and how she goes above and beyond to help the patients she cares for. This is her story.
“I administer chemotherapy to the breast cancer patients. To me it seems as if the number of breast cancer patients is increasing, and they seem to be getting younger and younger.
The number of patients coming through can be overwhelming sometimes because there are a lot of patients and there are only two chemo sisters. And you need more time to spend with your patients – they need to ask you questions, you need to have conversations one on one with them. And also you want them to feel free to speak and ask questions. Thursdays are our busiest days, it’s very hectic, sometimes we have up to 30 patients. And we have nine chemo chairs. I mean, can you imagine.
With our patients – especially the new ones – they are very scared. They don’t really tell you, they are very closed off, so you don’t really know what’s going on, but you are aware that they are so scared and so nervous, and you have to be there to help. And give that compassion and empathy. When you identify with the person sitting there then you can start treating them and assisting them on their journey…understanding what they’re going through.
It’s so rewarding seeing how confident the patients become through their treatment. When I see them sitting in the chemo room, and they form their own bonds, their own support groups, and when a new patient comes in, they put that patient’s mind at ease. We encourage them to speak to each other.
A few years ago I also had a cancer scare. So I kind of know a little bit, just a little bit, what they are going through. And just having that support is so important.
Some of them tell you that at home people don’t understand. They look okay, but people don’t understand what they are going through at home and at work. But when they get here, they are so happy to get here, and they are so happy to see us, and happy to see each other. And they tell us, “Sister, only you know how we feel and what we are going through and we can speak freely to you”.
When they tell us about the side effects we believe them and we help them. And sometimes when they’ve completed their treatment they cry because they say they’re going to miss us. And I can’t believe that. When it happens it’s still amazing to me. Because sometimes we are so busy we don’t see the impact on patients of what we are doing, and when they come and tell you, you feel shocked. We try our best, even though the numbers are so high and we have to rush to get things done. We try to give them the attention they need.
I’m surprised that they actually chose me for this Heroes interview. I just do what I love to do. I love my job. I love helping people. I didn’t expect this. Thank you.” – Sister Zakiyah Abrahams, Oncology Specialist Registered Nurse
And a hero she truly is! Thank you for all you do Sister Zakiyah. You can find out more about the Heroes of Groote Schuur by visiting the Facebook page here. They highlight the men and women working to better the hospital, whether nurses and doctors or administrative and janitorial staff.