Surika Horak's story of hope
Surika has been part of the City Paint & Tool family since 2002. She was 27 years old and seven and a half months pregnant with her first child when she noticed that the skin texture on her left breast had changed. With no family history of the disease she thought nothing of it and at a routine gynae check up the following week she was referred to a doctor for a second opinion. The next day she received the results – she had breast cancer. “All I felt was numb and then a slow acceptance” Surika said when asked what had gone through her mind on hearing the diagnosis. “I just wanted to make it long enough to see her face, to see what my daughter looked like”
Frightened beyond belief, God, and overwhelming family support, gave her the strength and courage to face the disease. On diagnosis she put her faith in the hands of the doctors and allowed them to lead her care and treatment as best they saw fit. Her doctor gave her the facts and she had two options; An immediate mastectomy or chemotherapy. The question of ‘what to do and when’ became critical, they had to treat her cancer as soon as possible.
Being pregnant her concerns were justified. How could she undergo an operation or have chemotherapy treatment while she was pregnant? What about her unborn child? She was assured that chemotherapy was completely safe that far along in the pregnancy and without hesitation started treatment immediately. A trying and terrifying time, not only was she facing a potentially life threatening disease, she was carrying her first child. She endured three weeks of chemotherapy treatment before she was due to deliver her baby girl.
Once her daughter Archerique was born, completely healthy and with a full head of thick dark hair, Surika endured a grueling eight months of chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. After her treatment the tumors had shrunk sufficiently for a partial mastectomy.
Today she has passed her 10 years cancer free mark and has been given a clean bill of health. Yet, each day is another accomplishment, another blessing. Each birthday she celebrates with her daughter and her partner Wade Botha is a gift, one she is truly thankful for. They are the two who keep her positive and on the right track to not only physical, but emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
From the beginning, Surika has viewed her experience as a journey, an obstacle she had to overcome, but one that would make her a stronger and more positive person. Surika has a favorite Charles Dickens quote she often uses when a friend or colleague mentions a new wrinkle or complains about aging, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many”
Her advice to anyone struggling with this disease is to “Stay positive, the road is a tough one and you need to be focused. Your body warns you, listen to it.”