Family reeling after losing loved one to lip cancer: ‘Life is empty without her’

2019-07-03 15:30
Clara van Heerden. (Photo: Supplied)

Clara van Heerden. (Photo: Supplied)

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It wasn’t meant to end like this.

Clara van Heerden’s voice was supposed to fill the rooms of her Pretoria home that she shared with her family.

Instead, her daughter, Bianca (22), son, Nico (28) and husband, Anton (56), are drowning from the emptiness her death has caused.

Clara was diagnosed with lip cancer earlier this year after struggling with what she thought was a cold sore for two years.  

She died aged 52 in May, almost two months after undergoing surgery to remove the 2kg mass that had engulfed her lower lip.

Bianca says the family are struggling to come to terms with her mom’s death.

“We miss her more every day and wish that things were different. Life is empty without her,” Bianca says.

She says Clara’s cancer reared its ugly head shortly after her surgery.

“She had a 16-hour operation to remove the mass on 2 March,” she says. “The operation was successful, but two weeks before she passed away the cancer returned and spread.”

Clara’s journey to the operating room was arduous: she was in constant pain and her funds had run dry, making it impossible for her to undergo surgery.

In a previous interview with YOU, Clara, whose cancer was first misdiagnosed as an infection, said the surgery required millions of rands.

“[The cancer] has spread to the lymph nodes in my neck and the operation will cost R3 million to R4 million,” she said.

But just as her hopes were dwindling, charity organisation Operation Healing Hands intervened, sponsoring her surgery at a hospital in the east of Pretoria.

“The tumour grew rapidly, resulting in this surgery during which her whole lower jaw had to be removed and replaced with her fibula as well as covered with skin flaps from her leg and forearm,” the organisation says.

“Clara’s biggest wish is to be able to kiss her children again and this now seems possible thanks to the amazing team who operated on her.”

Clara van Heerden and husband Anton

Unfortunately, this wish would never be realised. Her last days were filled with excruciating pain, Bianca tells us.

“She slept a lot. Since the operation she couldn’t eat, walk, talk or take care of herself.

Clara van Heerden and daughter

“We miss everything about her. I wish we could just laugh and make jokes and gossip about everything and everyone one last time.

“She was a good person that always helped where she could and our hearts are empty without her.”

Read more on:    cancer  |  lip cancer  |  death  |  family
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