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The faces of cancer
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The faces of cancer

Hair loss, weight loss and constant fatigue are only three of the side effects that people fighting cancer experience daily. Still, many brave cancer warriors fight on. In recognition of the recently held London Global Cancer Week, Ela Meiring an 18-year-old, Commonwealth Correspondent from South Africa gives us a glimpse into the life of young people who’ve had to fight this deadly disease.

My second cousin Reynecke Crous was a sporty and energetic child with a heart of gold. He enjoyed participating in a variety of sports, including cricket, rugby and athletics. In a blink of an eye, our lives changed when one early Saturday morning my grandmother received a call from her brother that shook our world; a cancerous tumour was discovered on Reynecke’s brain. Our great aunt, unfortunately, succumbed to brain cancer and this brought much heartache for our grandparents to relive this tragedy once again.

When someone has cancer, cells in their body that are not normal grow quickly, getting out of control these cells invade other parts of the person’s body. The cells can also lump together and form tumours. Persons battling this disease may suffer from pain, extreme tiredness, weight loss, fever among other symptoms. They may also become very depressed because of what is happening in their bodies.  

Reynecke fought cancer like a true warrior. He underwent brain surgery and had to go in and out to the hospital for radiation and chemotherapy. My Grandmother and I prayed for him every morning that he would miraculously be healed.

One side effect of the cancer treatment is swelling and I remember we had to go to a Math Olympiad and he was in attendance as well, but we weren’t in the same school. My classmates made fun of him and this caused anger and hurt in me, with tears in my eyes I explained that he has brain cancer and the medicine that heals him causes him to swell. They understood and immediately felt bad for judging him.

I was at a birthday party when he took his final breath. I thought my heart would explode into a million pieces, but then I remembered his thumbs-up sign saying he’s okay. As a 12-year-old I couldn’t fully understand why he had to die so young, why couldn’t he be cured of cancer like one would be cured of a cold.

His memorial service proved that he was a champion in a lot of people’s lives and an inspiration in our community. I had taken it upon myself to live my life to the fullest and whenever I accomplished something in life I would think of him and I would offer it up to him. Whenever I feel like giving up, I remember his fighting spirit.

I also see my cousin Reynecke’s fighting spirit in other people who are fighting cancer. Sometimes they win the battle, but it comes at a cost. That is the case with someone else I know who battled bone cancer twice and kept fighting when a tumour returned for the third time. 

At 16, she was faced with the difficult choice of either going for radiation and chemotherapy again or amputating her leg below the knee. She chose to have her leg amputated and is currently cancer-free. But her leg was not all she lost, she lost hope too. A year and 9 months ago she survived a suicide attempt. It was a low point in her life and she felt numb, empty, alone and worthless. She couldn’t see a future for herself, especially with her amputated leg. She couldn’t face herself in the mirror because she felt ugly. She hated her prosthetic leg and lied in bed for days, sometimes even weeks. She was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder type 2. This is an ongoing battle for her.

The emotional and physical pain of fighting cancer can be so devastating. That’s why Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski, the America’s Got Talent contestant who is still fighting cancer, has touched people all over the world with her story of courage and optimism.

Despite having a 2 per cent chance of survival in her battle against cancer, she entered the prestigious America’s Got Talent competition in June this year, to pursue her dream of being a singer and was given the Golden Buzzer of the season.”You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy,” she told the judges. Nightbirde’s original song “It’s OK” teaches us that sometimes we will face challenges that seem unconquerable. It’s okay if we feel lost in the midst of them. We can seek help and remain positive by reminding ourselves that every challenge has a lesson that we can learn. My second cousin Reynecke Crous’s battle with cancer has taught me to live my life to the fullest.

Photo caption: Reynecke Crous, the Correspondent’s cousin who lost his battle to cancer.

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Photo Credit: Ela Meiring

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About Ela Meiring: I’ve always loved writing, my best exam grades always came from essay writing. I also love children and want to give them the best start in life. Because of this, I am currently studying for my Bachelor degree in Foundation Phase Education at STADIO. I enjoy challenges and recently wrote an essay for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition for which I won a silver award.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles

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