By Mudassir Raja
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. This is the philosophy of life being practised by Sondra Hope, a Doha-based South African expatriate and a cancer-survivor.
Earlier an IT professional, after being diagnosed with cancer for the third time, Sondra became nutrition and wellness coach as well as a fitness trainer in an attempt to start taking control of her health, especially after her daughter was born.
She specialises in personal, sports and child nutrition. She is the founder of HopeFit, which specialises in online and personal training and nutrition coaching. She had groomed herself to be an exciting motivational speaker. She is also a professional photographer and dabbles in painting and fine art.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 24 in 2009, and now have my fourth cancer recurrence. I will be on treatment indefinitely to slow down any disease progression and have had two surgeries,” shared the resolute-looking Sondra with Community.
Suffering from cancer at a very young age was shocking for her but what really made her change course of her life was when her daughter was born in 2012. “In 2010, I got cancer recurrence. After the treatment, we wanted to start the family. The doctors told me that being under treatment for cancer; I will not be able to have a child. The doctors were not even hopeful even after I got pregnant. On August 21, 2012, my little girl was born, totally healthy. And, in December 2012, I was re-diagnosed with cancer. The doctors said it was bad and was basically spreading everywhere. I was in UAE and I went back to South Africa to get family support. I remained under treatment there till March 2015 when I came to join my husband in Qatar. The doctors in South Africa had told me that there was nothing much that they could do medically for me. They told me that I had 12 to 18 months left.”
“That was the day when my life changed. I came back from the doctor and was sitting in my room making my daughter go to sleep. While looking at her, I realised I would die for her. Then, a thought came to my mind that if you are willing to die why are you not willing live for her? That was the moment that changed everything for me.”
Sondra started studying nutrition and wellness. She started to try and control her life. “I have a very strong belief in our control over our bodies and life, by controlling our attitude and mind. When we are in a situation where we are out of control, we start despairing. But that is not true for me. I took my anger of not being able to do something and put it into focusing on those things that I can control. Psychologically, it also makes me feel better that I am doing something. If you do nothing, you get more depressed. Unfortunately, a lot of people do that.”
For Sondra, the biggest key to her success so far was the realization of the importance of your attitude and to find your “why”. She said: “Why I do what I do and why do I fight? We as people are okay with disappointing ourselves. But, we are less likely to want to disappoint other people and want other people’s perception about us to change. Finding your ‘why’ and the reason to carry on is a huge key to success. I can just say that I have had enough of treatment but the difference is when I wake and see my daughter sleeping there, it changes everything for me. I remind myself that tomorrow morning I am go to fight it for her. She is my ‘why’.”
Sondra became a motivational force for others after she realised how other cancer patients listen to her and tell her that she is a very strong person. “I tell them that what are my choices – die or fight? It’s not even about choices I have. I exist but I am living instead of existing and that is the difference. I am actually living more than those people who are totally healthy.
“I have also realised that I need to reach out to other people to make them understand that you have the power to be able to not just exist but to actually live.”
The cancer-survivor in her fight also gives very high credit to her husband and Qatar. “When it comes to support, it is my husband – Geoff Hope. He is the humour in my situations. We believe that if you cannot beat it, humour it.
“From a medical care point of view, if I tell you the truth, Qatar basically gave me life. The expensive cancer medicines that I always need, I am getting them through my healthcare. I have been getting proper medical care here. Qatar has given my daughter her mom.”
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