Chanel Wewege was just like any other South African teenager. She lived in Port Elizabeth, in grade 11 and enjoyed spending time with her friends. Chanel came from a religious family and was close to her younger brothers and parents. She first began experiencing strange symptoms whilst on holiday but they became progressively worse over time. It started off with a bit of dizziness but quickly progressed to serious bleeding, bruising and unbearable back pain.
Her parents, sensing that something was seriously wrong with their daughter took Chanel to the hospital where, after extensive testing, it was realised that Chanel was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). AML is a type of blood cancer that, without treatment, can quickly become fatal.
Chanel and her family barely had time to process the devastating news before she was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town to begin treatment.
Chanel spent an entire year at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and continuous testing – a process that took an extreme toll on her body, whittling her down to a mere 35 to 40 kilograms. The treatment forced her to be isolated from others, as exposure to any germs could potentially overwhelm her severely strained immune system.
Another devastating consequence of her condition was losing her hair. Despite having being warned by her medical team, Chanel found this to be an incredibly hard reality to accept.
Constant fear of death
The psychological side of cancer is usually overlooked by outsiders. Living with a chronic illness is difficult at the best of times but when you are stuck in a hospital bed for a year, facing with the constant fear of death, it is almost impossible to stay strong.
During these dark times, mother stayed by her bedside constantly, acting as a pillar of strength and doing her very best to keep her daughter’s hope alive. Her father was tasked with looking after her two brothers back home in Port Elizabeth.
Leukaemia Unveiled delves deep into both the physical and psychological toll that cancer takes on not only the patient, but the entire family. Chanel’s family pulled together under the toughest of circumstances to overcome one child’s illness whilst trying to provide their other two kids with as normal a life as possible.
Chanel is now 28 years old and has been in remission since 2005. She still lives in Port Elizabeth, has worked as a make-up artist and even auditioned to become a Top Billing presenter in 2012. She is also the lead singer in a rock band called Shackles and Sherry.
Watch Chanel's Top Billing audition below...