2007 September Woman: Samantha Gallièt

by | Sep 1, 2007

20070901WomanSamGalliet1.jpg

When
Samantha Gallièt was diagnosed with breast cancer, her whole world changed. She
was only 29, she had so many questions, and for the first time she was faced
with the possibility of her own death.

After six
months of chemotherapy, Samantha found out that she had a rare form of breast
cancer and required a special drug called Herceptin, which her medical aid
refused to pay for because it was too expensive.

She rounded
up to eight other women and took the medical aid to court. After much
wrangling, it was settled out of court and Samantha won the right to life for
herself and these women.

After
undergoing four operations, chemotherapy and intravenous Herceptin treatments
in two years, the 31-year-old Sandton resident found out in June this year that
she is clear of cancer.

Following
her battle with cancer her victory over her medical aid, Samantha, who has
become a popular motivational speaker, launched a breast cancer advocacy
organisation, PinkLink, which desires
a future where the rights of patients and those affected by breast cancer are
respected and upheld. The organisation envisages equitable and accessible
quality breast cancer treatment for all South Africans.

PinkLink addresses the issues facing patients
during their journey with breast cancer and lobbies for change to improve the
experience for the patient. 

Although
she have been given the all clear, Samantha says cancer is a lifetime
commitment, because the possibility of recurrence is very real.

As we approach
Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Samantha urges all women get to know our
breasts, go for a check up this October, and insist on a mammogram and a sonar.

Samantha
believes passion should infuse everything we do, and she is a living example of
that.

She savours
every moment of her life and believes we have the ability to achieve the
unbelievable if we can overcome fear.

Samantha
also does acting part-time, has studied Kaballah, does meditation, and is a
body alignment practitioner.

She loves
going to the gym and she does NIA, which is a combination of dancing, martial
arts, and yoga.

Her
favourite sports star is Oscar Pistorius because he has advocated the rights of
the physically disabled to take part as able bodies sports codes.

She will
always be known as the breast cancer patient who took on a top medical aid and
won, and she realizes the impact of so many South Africans.

An
unbelievably strong woman who is passionate about fighting battles that change
people’s lives for the better, introducing gsport’s September Woman of the
Month, breast cancer survivor, and Founder of PinkLink, Samantha Gallièt!

 

20070901WomanSamGalliet2.jpgWhat was your reaction when you
found out you had breast cancer?

Disbelief
and denial.  I could not comprehend
it.  I did not have breast cancer in my
family and was completely healthy.  I
also believed that breast cancer was an older woman’s disease and did not take
anybody with me to the diagnosis appointment. 
I sat before the doctor in a dreamlike state.  I saw his mouth moving but did not hear anything.  He sat drawing pictures and explaining my
options.  I felt like my world had
ended.  In that moment
everything that I had once believed important in my life seemed
inconsequential.  What had I achieved in
my life?  I was still so young and had so
much to do.  How could I be so
cheated?  For the first time I was faced
with the possibility of my death.

How did it impact on your life and
how did you cope initially with the shock?

My life
changed dramatically from that moment.  It was Friday afternoon 10th June 2005
and I had to book myself in for a mastectomy (breast removal) for the Monday
morning.  The weekend was a blur.  I remember thinking how screwed up my
priorities were and questioning everything. 
Why me?  What was I supposed to
learn from this?  I had always believed
everything happened for a reason and told myself that this was no
different.  I made a promise to myself
right then and there that I was not going to let this be the end of me.  I decided to make it the beginning of a new
better life.

What is your status now and are you
scared that the cancer may return?

I underwent
4 operations, chemotherapy and intravenous Herceptin treatment totaling 2 years
and found out in June this year that I am clear of cancer.  Cancer is a lifetime commitment.  Many people think that once your chemo is
finished you are home free.  Not so.  It is with you every day.  The possibility of recurrence (the return of
the cancer) is very real and in the beginning it haunts you every day.  As time goes on it becomes easier to deal
with and you do not think of yourself as a cancer patient but rather a cancer
survivor.  You learn to take things one moment at a time. 
Time is the one thing we cannot get back so the cliché of living each moment to its fullest becomes a reality.

Tell us about your battle with
medical aid to get them to fund your treatment?

After my 6
month chemotherapy regimen I found out that I had a rare form of breast cancer
called HER2.  This breast cancer affects
15% of all breast cancer patients and has a 7% survival rate.  The chance of recurrence with this cancer is
70%.  My oncologist informed me that my
only chance of survival was a new drug called Herceptin.  The treatment was R400 000 for a year (17
treatments). My medical aid denied treatment on the grounds that it was too
expensive.  This seemed preposterous to
me as that is the reason we have medical insurance.  My attorney (Lisa
Metzer) and I rounded up 8 other women and took the medical
aid to court. They settled out of court and we won the right to life for myself
and the 8 other women.

What’s it like being known as the
woman who took on a top medical aid scheme and won?

It was and
continues to be life changing.  I realize
every single day what an impact it has had on so many South Africans and how
important it is to continue with the work that I do.  Everyone told me that it was impossible.  I realize now that if I had listened I might
not be here today.  We are so convinced
that we cannot make a difference as individuals.  I believe that we have the capacity to
achieve the unbelievable but we need to remove the fear that holds us
prisoner.  Once that is gone, the
impossible becomes achievable.  It is so
important for us take responsibility for our actions in everything we do.  It can make the difference between life and
death.

20070901WomanSamGalliet3.jpg

Your journey to heal yourself of
breast cancer led you to start Pink Link, tell you more about this organisation
and the work it does?

PinkLink
was formed as a result of my experience during breast cancer.  I could not go back to the same work after
the realization that I had the power to make a difference and that I could live
my life with purpose. PinkLink is a non profit organization and desires a future where the rights of
patients and those affected by breast cancer are respected and upheld. We
envisage equitable and accessible quality breast cancer treatment for all South
Africans. PinkLink is a breast cancer advocacy organization that addresses the
issues facing patients during their journey with breast cancer and lobbies for
change to improve the experience for the patient.  Some of the issues we are currently working
on include access to treatment and improving the understanding and awareness of
patients rights. Go to our website if you would like to know more www.pinklink.org.za

Tell us more about the conference
you are hosting in October?

Over the
last year PinkLink has constantly had desperate enquiries for help from South
Africans undergoing cancer treatment for various cancers.  Through this we realized that there needed to
be one body that allowed all of the people involved during the patients cancer
journey to communicate the issues faced by each party.  This conference aims to make advocacy
understandable and accessible to every member of the public.  If you or a loved one are experiencing issues
and want to understand more about your rights this is the conference for
you.  Attendance is free and you will
walk away with tools to empower yourself during this difficult time.  The conference takes place from the 5-7
October 2007 at The Forum (Dimension Data Campus) in Bryanston, Johannesburg.  Please go to our website for more information
www.campaign4cancer.com

Aside from Pink Link, what else
keeps you busy?

I never
seem to have enough time!  I guess that everyone
has that complaint nowadays.  Apart from
PinkLink and Campaigning for Cancer I also do motivational speaking encouraging
South Africans to become more responsible as healthcare consumers.  We seem to have a culture of complacency and
apathy.  It is imperative that we
understand our rights as consumers. We cannot blame others for taking advantage
when we do not know what our rights are or what our contracts cover us for.  I also do some acting on the side.  I have been on Isidingo and Scandal and done
some TV adverts.  I did a lot of acting
in my youth and absolutely love the theatre. 
I do it for fun and really love it. 
I have also embarked on a spiritual journey. I have studied kaballah do
meditation as well as becoming a body alignment practitioner. These activities
has proved to be life altering for me and have definitely helped me become more
centred and focused.  I can honestly say
I believe cancer to be a gift as it has allowed me to live the life I have
always wanted.

20070901WomanSamGalliet4.jpgHow would you like South Africans to
commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness month in October?

Remember
that life is a gift given to each and every one of us.  Take the time to savour each moment of every day and live consciously and
responsibly.  Keeping this in mind get to
know your breasts and go for a check up this October.  Insist on a mammogram and a sonar. Remember
that early detection of breast cancer saves lives.  Your chances of survival increase
dramatically if you catch it early – I am living proof of that.

What’s your message to women
battling breast cancer?

Don’t give
up.  Nothing is impossible and miracles
are man made.

How do you relax?

After a
tough day I love taking long candlit baths burning some incense with some jazz
in the background.  I love any kind of
music and girls magazines for a bit of mindless entertainment.  Because of my theatre background I adore
going to live shows and watching movies. I believe I was born in the wrong era
because I am obsessed with old movies (Audrey Hepburn is my icon).  There is something to be said for the old
fashioned chivalry and elegance of those times. 
I am crazy about food so going out with my man to a restaurant, enjoying
a glass of wine and some stimulating conversation is a high priority for
relaxation. 

How do you keep fit?

I go to gym
as often as I have the time for and love the dancing classes. I am mad about
any kind of dancing.  I also do NIA which
is a combination of martial arts, dancing and yoga.  It is great fun and helps me relax as well as
keeping me fit.  NIA is also a healing
technique and is used for rehabilitation. 
It combines my love of dancing with my love of music and spirituality.

Who is your favourite sports star?

Oscar
Pistorius because he has advocated the rights of the physically disabled to
take part as able bodies sports codes

gsport’s theme for September is
PASSION. What are you passionate about?

I believe
that passion should infuse everything that you do.  Why waste time doing things you are not
passionate about.  I am passionate about championing
peoples rights.  Kahlil Gibrain says ‘man
struggles to find life outside himself unaware that what he is looking for
comes from within’

gsport strives to celebrate
femininity. How would you define femininity?

Society
seems to define femininity through certain specific stereotypes. The media also
constantly drive femininity based on external appearance – breasts and hair are
often associated with this.  When you
have cancer your breasts and hair are taken away from you and you realize that
femininity has to come from within.  You
can still be feminine with no breasts or hair so I think femininity is a state
of mind.

20070901WomanSamGalliet5.jpgWhat’s the best thing about being a
woman?

Shoes shoes
shoes… Imagine not being able to wear sexy stiletto heels!  We are able to disguise ourselves with
extreme makeover like improvements e.g. Wonderbras, hair extensions, control
top pantyhose and makeup can reveal an Angelina
Jolie where once there was an Ugly Betty.

Who are your role models?

Lance Armstrong
for surviving cancer against all odds and going on to be unbeatable by winning
the Tour de France 6 times and becoming an advocate of hope for cancer
patients. I read his book (Its not about the bike) while in hospital after my
mastectomy and found it so inspiring.  My
second role model would have to be Audrey Hepburn.  She managed to retain her graciousness and
integrity and remained completely down to earth despite her fame and
fortune.  She also became an advocate for
children’s rights for UNICEF before she succumbed to cancer. 

What inspires you?

The power
of the human spirit.  I am continually
amazed at how unbelievable we are as human beings.  I constantly come across people who have had
cancer and survived against all odds. 
These brave people are a testament to our ability to achieve whatever we
set our minds to.  We have the power to
overcome the insurmountable – even death.

Your greatest ambition?

This
is a difficult question because after cancer you live day to day but I would
have to say for PinkLink to become the largest most powerful advocacy
organization for breast cancer in Africa
assisting countless people in their fight to survive and overcome breast cancer.

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<a href="https://gsport.co.za/members/kass_naidoo/" target="_self">Kass Naidoo</a>

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls

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