Decade of survivors

2018-03-20 06:01
the CANSA Relay for Life Athlone’s 24-hour event took place at Vangate sport complex on Friday evening. PHOTO: Rashied Isaacs

the CANSA Relay for Life Athlone’s 24-hour event took place at Vangate sport complex on Friday evening. PHOTO: Rashied Isaacs

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This year marked a decade of Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA) Relay For Life event. Cancer survivors and caregivers alike showed their support, despite the weather on Friday­. Even a setback with the usual venue at Vygieskraal Stadium, in Johnson Road didn’t dampen the spirits at the Athlone leg of the annual relay.

Faizel Jacobs addressed the room of survivors and caregivers, describing a realisation he had on his journey with colon cancer. “There’s a hell of a lot going on in your mind, I thought to myself I’m not a bad person, it can’t be
cancer.”

After accepting the diagnosis, he then had to grapple with the doctor’s prognosis – finding it difficult to share the news with his loved ones.

Jacobs said he’s come to realise something extremely important through the disease, which has stayed with him, even after two years in remission. “The most amazing thing happened that night (after telling his family) everybody became a ‘doctor’. Everybody knew about miracle drugs or a miracle diet, telling me not to go through with the operation because aunty so and so’s boyfriend’s granny also had colon cancer and they didn’t have one.

“Everyone kept telling me about the consequences and I was thinking: ‘This is not what I need right now’. I didn’t need my support group to be telling me what to do, I needed them to ask me what I needed,” he said, calling on those in a position of support to be mindful of avoiding the “know-it-all”
attitude.

The second most diagnosed cancer worldwide is breast cancer (1.7 million, 11.9%), which Fhaneelah Davids discovered she had in 1994.

Davids discovered a lump in her breast after a routine self-examination. “It’s 24 years later but for me it feels like yesterday. I still can’t really speak about it because it’s still very sad for me. When you’re young you don’t expect it to happen to you, at the time I thought it only happened to old people. I was thirty at the time, I had a five-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.”

Davids highlighted the importance of prevention and early detection, acknowledging that it’s probably why she has been fortunate enough to live to see her four grandchildren.

She added that she feels extremely lucky for discovering her cancer in its initial phase (stage 1). “The only thing that can take you through this is Allah and what motivated me at the time was my children, I had to stay strong for them.”

Anthea Bingle, chairperson of Relay for Life Athlone, said this year was about rolling with the punches despite a sudden venue change to the Vangate Sports Complex.

“There were quite a number of new expenses with this year’s event, but we’ve been able to increase our team registration with donations from 650 to 1650 because of the demand for resources.”

The funds from the event go directly to Cansa – to provide services in the community, assisting with projects like home-based care visits, which aid patients who are identified at Groote Schuur or Tygerberg Hospital as individuals in need of 
support.

There are also instances where patients from out of town need accommodation while receiving treatment and there are funds that go to running the Cansa Eikehof Interim Facility in Athlone.

“We embraced this year’s challenges because in the same way you get cancer, you don’t have the luxury to consider the side effects of treatment, you have to just roll with the punches and that’s the spirit we brought to the relay.”

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