When six-year-old Jayvan Janse van Rensburg is in a lot of pain, his twin brother, Blake, says, “Maybe it’s better if Boetie dies and joins Pappa, who’ll look after him.”
But at other times he tells their mother, Carin (39), “Boetie must stay here with us a little longer.”
Blake struggles with the fact that his brother, who’s in Grade R with him at Laerskool Voorwaarts in Vereeniging, Gauteng, can’t run around, kick a ball or play cricket with him.
On 1 January 2016 Jayvan complained of a pain in his leg. Five days later, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He’s been fighting the disease ever since and chemotherapy hasn’t sent it into remission.
Though Jayvan was initially given three months to live, it’s been 46 months since his diagnosis. He’s due to have his 10th leg surgery soon. Carin is facing the difficult decision in the next few weeks of whether the cancerous bone should be removed and Jayvan’s leg shortened, or whether the leg should be amputated at the hip.
“For a six-year-old it’ll be hard to get around with just one leg,” Carin tells us on the phone from Vereeniging.
Shortening Jayvan’s leg will be an expensive surgery and the bone will have to regrow and new blood flow will have to established, otherwise his body will reject the leg.
And with amputation Jayvan would never be able to wear a prosthetic.
She’s a single mom and she says it’s difficult, but she’ll do anything to save her little boy’s life.
“I have no other choice but to stay strong. Two weeks ago, I sold my car and I’m willing to sell my house. It’s all I have,” Carin says.
And all of this came after the family lost dad Anton.
Anton (52) was shot dead in a home invasion in Drie Riviere, Vereeniging, exactly five weeks before Jayvan’s cancer diagnosis.
“It was the middle of the day,” Carin tells us, her voice breaking. “They beat up my 12-year-old son, Enrico. He was home alone with the domestic worker when we arrived. I heard Enrico yell, ‘Mommy, come quickly!’
“The robbers fled and in the chase Anton was fatally wounded.
“That’s just my life. What can I say? It sounds terrible to say but I’m relieved he’s dead – he wouldn’t have been able to cope with his son’s suffering,” Carin says.
Whichever surgery she chooses, either can be done in Pretoria. But after the previous surgery Jayvan contracted a virus in hospital and ended up spending eight weeks there, so Carin is torn about her pending decision.
“I want to know from every parent, ‘What would you do if it were your child? [Would you] amputate?’ ”