Two years after being diagnosed with a rare disease, a young boy from Missionvale has already had a relapse and receives regular chemotherapy.
Living with a life-threatening disease is difficult, receiving chemo at the tender age of 13 is even worse, but Junaid Pietersen has found the perfect way to express his emotions and cope with his illness through dancing.
Junaid, a Grade 8 learner at Otto du Plessis High School in Algoa Park, was diagnosed with Rosai-Dorfman disease when he was 11 years old.
This disease is a rare disorder where the body overproduces and accumulates white blood cells of a specific type. These usually result in swollen lymph nodes, most commonly in the neck.
He is currently receiving outpatient chemotherapy treatment following a relapse last year.
Junaid has always had a love of amapiano music and has been teaming up with a family friend who has been mentoring and teaching him different dancing techniques.
The two have even posted a video of them doing the Amapiano Dance Challenge on TikTok.
During the recent launch of the Reach for a Dream Foundation’s FEM Dream Room at Dora Nginza Hospital, Junaid and his instructor, known professionally as Warra, performed a dance routine for the audience.
He also participated in Reach for a Dream’s Dancing for Dreams fun campaign late last year and danced himself into a pair of All Star sneakers.
“I love dancing because it makes me feel good. I also enjoy dancing with my instructor because we get along well and we understand each other.
“He also teaches other kids in the neighbourhood to dance,” Junaid said.
When asked whether he would like to pursue dancing as a career after school, Junaid answered: “I dance as a hobby and would like to teach others to dance too but want I really want is to become a doctor one day.”
Junaid’s mother, Juanita Pietersen, said that he has been handling his disease like a champ.
“He is like a little grown-up about it and the only thing that he is worried about, is losing his hair,” she said.
She explained that before he was diagnosed, Junaid was sleeping a lot and he was always tired.
“I noticed swollen glands on certain parts of his body and even asked my mother what it could be. We asked him if he had hurt himself but he said no; so just to be safe, my mother took him to the clinic.
“Two weeks passed and the glands on the other side of his body were now swollen too. We took him to the hospital and a biopsy was done. That is how we found out about the disease,” she explained.
“When Junaid starting showing an interest in dancing, I could see that he was curious and that’s how his passion started.
“I am very happy that he is doing this because it keeps him off the streets and helps him cope with his disease. I am very proud of him.