On 9 May 2012 after extensive lobbying of local government the Aloe Igazi Haemotology unit was officially opened. A scant 12 days later the state of the art unit was dealt a body blow as the Eastern Cape Health Department failed to staff the unit with the promised staff of 22 nurses as, despite having advertised and recruited staff it had yet to appoint them as there was a moratorium (on hiring) because there was no money leaving the unit to stand empty.
In the midst of all these shenanigans it seemed that bureaucrats had forgotten their clients – the patients who had to now continue travelling to Cape Town for treatment.
One of those who assisted at the 9 May opening and who had undergone extensive treatment in Cape Town was local lass, Chanel Wewege.
At the time I asked Chanel about her diagnosis and she explained that fateful day thus; “It was in early January 2005 that my life changed significantly. I was 17 with long, dark locks of hair and an enthusiastic personality. Young and completely oblivious to most things around me when an excruciating pain in my lower back brought me to Greenacres Hospital in the early hours of what was to be a very scary morning.
“My parents and brother were at my side as the nurses took my blood pressure and temperature. Just as I was about to be sent home with some pain pills, something quite amazing happened – Dr Swart walked by, noticed me on the examination bed and made her way toward us. “Are you always this pale?” she asked. I replied that I was generally pasty and that it had never bothered me before. She then did something unexpected and pricked my finger with a blood sugar needle, we were sent home and told that the results of the blood test would be called through to us.
“At home I immediately fell asleep on the couch and was soon woken by the sound of the phone ringing; Mom started crying and then started packing a bag with my clothes, puzzled and frightened I asked what was going on and all she said was that it was serious and we needed to get to the hospital.
“Back in the hospital trauma section’s office Dr Wickens sat across from us and his lips moved saying; “I am not going to beat around the bush.” I ran out and sat in the passage. A few seconds later I heard Mom scream; “No!!!”
“It was soon revealed to me that I had been diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukaemia, that I had had this disease for six months and that I needed to get to Cape Town as soon as possible. That was the first day I saw my Dad cry and the last time I’d see my Mom the same way ever again.”
At the time Chanel also proudly told me that she was writing a book about her experiences.
Fast forward to Thursday 21 November 2013 at the Galaxy Grill Restaurant in Port Elizabeth, and the launching of Chanel’s book, Leukaemia Unveiled.
Describing her book Chanel says; “If you are seeking a meaning in your own life and want to compare to others to see what it is you lack in yours, read Leukaemia Unveiled. It’s a story of Hope, Survival and the utter Unknown! If you have just been introduced to the disease either in yourself or through a loved one and you are looking for guidance and answers for what’s to come, Leukaemia Unveiled is an easy-to-read in depth look into ‘physically’ enduring this disease.”
When asked why she titled the book Leukaemia Unveiled, Wewege explained; “I wanted to denounce the stigma attached to Cancer. There are survival stories as well as tragedies, I wanted to give people a better insight into what ‘really’ happens when you’re in there. An Unveiling is almost like a ‘setting free’ and that is what I seek to do with this book.”
Fighting cancer can be a very long and lonely road that requires deep self introspection and masses of self confidence, especially in one so young, and Chanel has the following advice to fellow sufferers; “Use every ounce of your being to fight. Never give up! It’s a long, hard road and there will be many unfathomable experiences, but carry on. Faith is the answer, go deep inside your spiritual self and draw from the courage you possess! A lesson I learned in hospital is that there is no truer verse than; God shall not give you a task that He knows you cannot handle.”
I asked Chanel about the large tattoo on her arm and it’s significance; “I lost my father very tragically and I needed to release my anger somehow so I went searching through my dad’s Bible, for one well thumbed page, perhaps the page that he may have read the most and I stumbled upon this verse that he had underlined – and I decided to ink it on. The verse is in Revelations 9:11 – And then I SAW Heaven open, there was a white horse, it’s rider is called; Faithful and True, and it is with Justice that he judges and fights his battles.”
For now, Leukaemia Unveiled can be purchased directly from Chanel – email@example.com – it will be available in book stores from January 2014.
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