Four brave children share their tactics against cancer – from writing poetry to playing the guitar.
Zizipho was told she had kidney cancer when she was only five. Now 22, she’s been in remission for 17 years. She remembers, “I was hurt and confused because I was so small and I didn’t know what was going on. I was scared I was going to die, but my mom said I’d live. My brother and three sisters made me feel special – like a rockstar! – every time they came to visit me in hospital. Those visits made me forget I was sick and made me feel loved.”
Her message? “There’s more to life than being sad. Talking about it lets you be joyful again and helps others understand what you’re going through.”
Arno Bouwer found out that he had a cancerous tumour deep in his brain when he was 16. He sat next to his mother, Anita, while the doctor explained what the scans had revealed. He would later say, “At first I thought this sounds quite rough but I suppose there are things like doctors and stuff for a reason. I don’t think we realised how serious it was – that this was brain cancer.”
Arno’s tumour was rare and they could find only 11 case studies worldwide. He needed a major operation, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and there were no guarantees. He took it on with his trademark good humour, and his guitar. The guitar became a barometer of how he was doing. His mom says, “On the days that we heard him playing his guitar we knew he was feeling okay.”
Today he’s healthy, finishing matric and has his mind set on university. He laughs about coming out of this with better hair, curls having replaced his straighter hair since growing back after chemo. His “makeover” was even his selling point when running for student council at school!
Sibongile was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011 and took it very hard. She was only 14 at the time but tried to commit suicide twice, lost a kidney to attempted overdoses and spent six months in hospital. She says, “The doctors told me it was not going to be easy and I lost hope – I wanted to die before it got worse. But supportive people convinced me I wasn’t dying just yet and I started living more positively and writing poetry.
One of my doctors noticed my talent and got my work published. My book is called ‘The journey of a cancer survivor’ and it’s given me a lot of confidence.”
Now under the guardianship of the charitable Chief Leeuw Foundation that focuses on community projects and health, Sibongile is doing well and has become an ambassador for the Sunflower Fund, which recruits bone marrow stem-cell donors.
Kamogelo (17) and his father, Tshepo, are big soccer fans – Pirates men – and it was shortly after South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010 when they first noticed the headaches.
Tshepo says, “Kamogelo had started smoking, as teenagers do, and I thought maybe it was that, or he’d bumped his head playing soccer. But he kept feeling unwell so we took him to hospital. Scans revealed a cancerous brain tumour.”
Kamogelo says, “It was difficult to handle and hard to know you just have to accept it. I loved playing soccer – I’m a goalie – but now I can’t play. The tumour started affecting my movement so I had to have an operation.”
Doctors weren’t able to remove the tumour completely but Kamogelo has had radiotherapy and chemotherapy, so the family are hopeful of a strong recovery.
Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC)
086 111 3500
Reach for a Dream
011 880 1740
The views and experiences expressed by the individuals featured in these personal accounts are in no way intended as an endorsement of any product or service – commercial, retail or otherwise.