Kicking Cancer in the ____!

The month of October is recognised as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in South Africa


The truth is, the incidence of breast cancer among South African women is increasing and it is one of the most common cancers among women in South Africa. But as with most potentially-terminal illnesses, early detection is key.

This October is a particularly special month for us at Unique Welding, because walking amongst us is a very special person. She is seen as the Mother of our entire organisation, and the person to contact with almost any problem or query. She has been with our company for over 2 decades. But what makes her special is that, exactly 20 years ago to the month, this tiny-yet-incredible woman


Here is Tannie Gerda’s story….

In September 2001 Gerda noticed a pain in one of her breasts and shortly after going for a scan, received the heart wrenching results that she had Stage 2 Breast Cancer.


“I will never forget that day for as long as I live,” she says. “I just put the phone down and lay my head on my hands and cried. The entire office went quiet. Nobody knew what to do next.”

Gerda’s journey from diagnosis to remission spanned over 6 long and exhausting months. During those dark months, she underwent a mastectomy, endless sessions of Chemotherapy, and countless days where she didn’t know if she could go on. 

“I was angry,” Gerda tells me. “I was angry at the Lord. I asked him why he had done this to me. Why did he choose me? And why had he taken my mother away from me when he knew I would need her during this time?” 

However, Gerda didn’t realise just how incredibly strong she was. She continued to work throughout those 6 months. She continued to work even though she was weak from the Chemo. Even though she was losing all of her hair. Even though most of us would have long-since given up. Gerda continued on.

“One of the hardest days for me was the day they shaved my hair,” Gerda recounts. “It was then that this disease became real to me. On that day, I cried, and I cried, and I cried.”

She came to work with her wig on every day. In the summer months, she’d close her office door and take the wig off just to ease the hot flushes caused by the Chemotherapy. She recalls a story of an employee that entered her office one day and saw her with her wig off and laughs at the shocked expression he had on his face.

“I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my Unique Welding family,” she says, smiling. “So many of them are still here with me at work today. The support they gave me was amazing. They really showed me how much they cared for me.”

It’s difficult for me to put myself in her shoes, and imagine what it was like for Gerda 20 years ago. The suffocating fear that one must feel. The anger and resentment one must have, and the sense of being betrayed by your own body. Can you imagine the whirlwind of emotions that Gerda must have gone through?

When I ask her about it, she tells me this:

“It was hard, I won’t lie. There were days when I did want to end it all. There were days when a simple phone call from a friend pulled me out of a very dark place.” Gerda has a faraway look on her face when she says, “It was one of those dark days. I was lying on my bed at home and just crying. I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I think that I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. All of a sudden, I heard the choir from the church across the road start singing. In that moment, I remembered a Bible verse that my childhood Sunday School teacher taught me:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

Isiah 53v5

Gerda with the nurse that sat with her during her Chemotherapy sessions

Gerda continued to work during her Chemotherapy sessions

“I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my Unique Welding family”.

Gerda’s last session of Chemo

““And by his wounds, we are healed.” And then I knew that I was going to make it.”

And so, 6-months later, on the 9th October 2001 – after the surgery, the many sessions of Chemotherapy, and all of the horrors that accompany it – Gerda emerged Cancer-free and more secure in her faith than she had ever been.

The 9th of October 2021 marked Gerda’s 20th year Cancer-free and she was ready to celebrate! She has been growing her hair for the past 24 months and on the 9th October 2021, Gerda and many of her family and friends cut and shaved their hair off in support of Gerda herself, and for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

It is an absolute honour to work alongside this bite-sized WARRIOR QUEEN, and to call her a colleague, and a friend. She brings so much love and light into every space that she occupies, and is always there to offer a hug, or share a giggle.

Tannie Gerda, Gerdatjie, the Mother of Unique Welding – we dedicate this month of October to you and stand in awe of your struggle and inevitable victory over Breast Cancer. You are an inspiration to us all! Unique Welding will be making a sizeable donation to a breast cancer charity in your honour this month!

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