Chereez Nel (4) from Boksburg, Gauteng, had been suffering from a mysterious cancer – but has now thankfully been in remission for a year.
“There’s still a long road ahead but we’re feeling positive,” says Chereez’s mom, Angelique. “Faith – that’s the only thing that’s keeping us strong.”
Chereez started complaining of pain in her cheek in 2018. Angelique and her husband, Pieter, noticed a bit of swelling and took her to a doctor.
She was started on a course of antibiotics but when the swelling in her cheek failed to subside, she was taken for a CT scan. The scan revealed she had a tumour near her brain.
At the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Parktown, Johannesburg, the family were told Chereez had what’s called an undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma. It was stage three and the cancer was spreading to her face and neck.
Though oncologists could confirm the cancer hadn’t spread to the little girl’s other organs, they were unable to determine exactly what kind of cancer it was. Doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiation.
They told her parents the best type of radiation for her condition is Proton therapy, which is currently only available in America. The treatment costs R2,7 million and thanks to a generous donation from a Good Samaritan and a loan, the Nels were able to raise the money they needed.
In August last year the family travelled to America where Chereez underwent two months of treatment. On 13 December 2018 doctors informed them that Chereez was cancer-free, and during a check-up on 5 December this year, tests showed the cancer is still in remission.
Angelique says it’s wonderful news, although Chereez still needs chemotherapy for the next six months. Then she’ll be carefully monitored for the next 20 years for any abnormalities.
“Next year, we’ll see specialists who can help with any delayed growth of her face.”
The mom says Chereez, who started school this year, handled it all very well. “She plays with her friends and when she gets tired, she’ll tell the teacher she wants to sit down for a bit – but those times are getting fewer and farther between. She believes she’s healthy and that the ‘bugs’ in her head have been killed.”
It’s only now sinking in how tough the battles were that they’d fought, Angelique says.
“When we returned from America, there was no time to get emotional or feel self-pity. We’re only now realising the extent of what we’ve been through.”