For more than a year, Carli van Aswegen (26) from Bloemfontein fought a fierce battle against brainstem cancer.
The once-radiant young mom became almost unrecognisable, helpless and swollen by the cortisone treatment. She lost her fight early on Tuesday morning, slipping away exactly a month after Christmas.
“Carli fought courageously. I believe she’s pain-free this morning. She has her angel wings,” Hester Potgieter, Carli’s mother, tells YOU.
Lulu van Aswegen, Carli’s mother-in-law who helped care for her in a garden flat on their property in Brandwag, says Carli died shortly after 4am.
“She was the bravest person I knew” Lulu says.
Carli leaves behind her husband, Daniel (27), and son, Micah (3).
She was diagnosed with a rare malignant brain tumour, known as an ependymoma, in September 2020. The tumour attached itself to her brain stem and couldn’t be surgically removed.
To counter the effects of the radiation she was underdoing, she was put on cortisone, which caused her to dramatically transform from the willowy, healthy young woman in earlier photographs.
When YOU spoke to her last year, Carli had already started planning her own funeral. She wanted a colourful ceremony with lots of balloons, and she wanted her ashes to be used to plant a tree.
“There must be a bench with my name on it,” she said.
In December Carli said it broke her heart that she was terminally ill. By that stage, she could no longer do anything for herself, and nurses and her family had to care for her day and night.
“I know this may be my last Christmas and it breaks my heart. Not for me – for my child who’s going to grow up without his mother, and my husband who’s going to have to go on without his best friend. But I’m okay. I know where I’m going.”
All the family could do was pray for a miracle, though Carli knew her time was short. She spent her last days reading the Bible and meditating.
“I’ve learnt that it’s important to appreciate your ability to do things for yourself – just to be able to walk,” she told YOU at the time.
“Appreciate the fact that you can be healed if you’re sick. People complain so easily when they’re sick – I understand, that’s where they are in that moment. But they also need to know it’s okay because they’re going to get well again. It’s not necessarily a chronic or terminal thing.”
Her greatest wish for Christmas was to have just a little more time with her family, more pictures of her son, more love from those who came to visit her.
When it comes to how to treat people who are terminally ill, Carli wanted to let their friends and loved ones know, “People should stop telling those who are ill, ‘You’re going to get a miracle.’
Instead, they should say, ‘I’m praying for a miracle for you. Let’s go have a coffee!”