Local cancer survivor shares her miraculous pregnancy journey

I enter the Jogajoga café with a local family from George ready to interview them.

Avah (3), the youngest, walks calmly while holding her Manchester United football in her hand.

A few minutes later the previously calm little girl has now transformed into a little bundle of joy running around and laughing as her and older sister, Hope (12), play with the ball. 

As Avah laughs loudly in the background her mother starts to share their story. 

I feel the tears fill my eyes when Caeana continues to share the miraculous experience their family had.

Three years ago Caeana found out she was pregnant with their second baby, Avah.

The family was filled with excitement when the unforeseen diagnosis struck.

The shocking news

A growth the size of a golf ball often appeared and disappeared in Caeana's neck.

After a few doctors visit and an autopsy, she received a call from her doctor saying it looks like cancer.

"I remember that day so clearly. It was a rainy Friday afternoon. I walked into the house after fetching Hope from aftercare. My sister-in-law's eyes were red from crying. I ran to the room where I found Caeana sitting on the bed, shocked by the phone call she had just received from the doctor," Michael, her husband, shares. 

He says, "When you hear the word cancer you immediately think death. I fell down on my knees, distraught, asking if there's a God and why do these kinds of things happen to people? Then the message comes: 'you and your family will be a true testimony of what I can do'."

A few days later it is confirmed, Caeana has stage two Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Pregnant in her first trimester, these were the odds the doctor gave her.

A more than 70% chance that she could lose her baby, or a 90% chance that the baby could be born disabled.

She had to decide if she wanted to start with chemotherapy while continuing with her pregnancy, or terminate her baby because her life would be in danger if she did not. 

Caeana's response was that she would not decide between her life and the life of her child.

She chose to start with chemotherapy and carry out her full term of pregnancy.

Processing the diagnosis

"We were so shocked when the doctor told us it is cancer. It was something I had never thought about, because nobody in my family has ever had it," Caeana recalls thinking on their journey home from the doctor's office. "At some point, Michael laid his head on the steering wheel as the tears were streaming from his eyes." 

The following two days after the diagnosis the doctors informed them about everything they should expect.

"Although we felt a bit more prepared once we received more information on what to expect, as a family, we allowed ourselves to face all the emotions we were confronted with during that time period," Caeana shares.

Hope's main concern was if the baby was going to be fine, and her mom continuously reassured her that the baby will be okay.

"I told her, just like you and I are fine, Hope, the baby will also be fine."

With the support of her family, friends, colleagues and church members, Caeana fearlessly faced chemotherapy.

"I was very fortunate to not experience extreme side effects. My hair never fell out, and more often than not I did not need the nausea medication," she says.

People often told her not to eat during chemotherapy cause she'll get nauseous.

"I used to get so hungry during chemotherapy, so I would have some food and people would always say I am going to get nauseous but that never happened. Most of the time I gave my nausea medication to people who could not afford it."

Healthy baby Avah

5 October 2016 a healthy baby Avah was born weighing 3,6 kilograms. 

I look at her and the disbelief hits me again and manifests in more tears in my eyes.

I take a deep breathe, trying to remain composed, as I listen to Caeana telling her story. 

"When Michael and I visited our apostle and his wife, they prayed with us. After prayer, apostle said the words 'it is done', just that. I never cried again after that cause I knew it was done, God would fight for me and my baby, and we will both be fine."

Caeana was right.

Her daughter was fine, and she would be too.

A healthy baby Avah.

A healthy baby Avah.

Cancer free

After giving birth to Avah, Caeana still regularly had to go to hospital for her chemotherapy.

For the stronger chemotherapy sessions she was hospitalised and baby Avah, big sister Hope and their dad would visit her daily.

In 2017, Caeana received the amazing news that she was cancer free.

She has been in remission for two years and has to go for a check up every six months over a period of five years.

The battle is not yours

As the ending of our interview gets nearer Caeana says, "Sometimes we find ourselves in situations and we don't understand why we have to go through it."

She continues, "During these times your mind convinces you that you're okay but your heart knows you are not. It is very important that there is a correlation between what's happening in your mind and your heart. Feeling your emotions is extremely important during those kind of times."

Caeana says she knew she would not have been able to overcome the battles she fought all by herself.

"I could not pretend I was okay in the beginning, because I really was not. Expressing my emotions really helped dealing with the journey and I know God fought the battle for me," she says as Avah insists mommy must put lip gloss on her lips.

The tears return to the forefront of my eyes as I find myself silently looking at the healthy three year old doctors said would be disabled should her mom choose to not terminate her, running around and carelessly giggling as she and her older sister are playing.

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