We all know Nelson Mandela as the renowned South African leader who guided a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy in 1994, after spending 27 years in prison. But his granddaughter, 33-year-old Zoleka Mandela, has something to say about her own life’s trials and tribulations — including her battle with breast cancer, the deaths of two of her children, and her struggle with a drug and alcohol addiction.

Zoleka Mandela hopes her memoir, When Hope Whispers, can help those suffering with similar issues: “I’ve had these challenges in my life, these unbearable circumstances that have happened in my life, and I’m using my own life experience to help somebody else that is struggling on their journey,” Mandela told the Associated Press.

Zoleka was 10 years old when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and describes her experience with being sexually abused as a child and undergoing a series of “disturbing” relationships since her first boyfriend at age 9. One week after her own attempt at suicide through a cocaine binge, Zoleka discovered her 13-year-old daughter had been killed in a car crash while she was in a Johannesburg clinic. She became pregnant with a boy soon after, but the child was born premature and died a few days after birth.

Rape and sexual abuse continues to be a major issue in South Africa, even though the country is often considered the “poster child” of Africa. A 2012 report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) think tank found that the prevalence of rape in South Africa was extremely high, and that last year, some 127 people per 100,000 were sexually assaulted.

When Hope Whispers also follows her diagnosis of breast cancer and her journey of “pain and struggle to hope, faith, and inspiration,” she writes on her website. After undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy, she is now doing well, though she admits that “what hurt me the most was I was losing my breasts,” she told news.com.au. “[M]y breasts was my connection to my kids.”

Nelson Mandela, who turned 95 this year, has been in and out of the hospital in critical condition with a lung infection and other health complications, though he is now at his home in Johannesburg. According to the BBC, he was hospitalized four times in the past year and his lung condition was believed to have been caused by the tuberculosis he lived through during his 27-year stay in prison. Mandela continues to be a beacon of hope for many South Africans and people around the world. “If he dies, we won’t feel the same — this world won’t be the same,” a young South African girl told the BBC.

Zoleka Mandela believes she has a social responsibility that she can’t “run away from, and instead I feel I embrace it,” when referring to being a Mandela. “One of the things I learned so much about from my grandparents is that you always have the power in you to make a difference in somebody else’s life despite your own challenges, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do,” she told news.com.au.