The CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation celebrated cancer survivors at the weekend.
More than a dozen cancer survivors, along with their families and health-care professionals, were at the event, which was held at Christ Church Sybrand Park, on Saturday, the day before National Cancer Survivors Day is observed annually on June 4.
CHOC offers support and accommodation to child cancer patients and their families who live far from the hospitals that provide cancer treatment.
Deidre Luiters, of Bonteheuwel, said her daughter, Rahmlynn Luiters, 15, was 3 when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
“Rahmlynn was really pale and had a fever and I took her to the local clinic, where they said she had a throat infection.”
But Ms Luiters had been unsure about that diagnosis because her daughter had also had blue marks on her body.
“I received a referral from our general practitioner, and we took her to the Red Cross where they did blood tests and diagnosed her with leukaemia.
“Red Cross took good care of her, and she underwent chemotherapy for two years. She could not leave the hospital during that time, and her resistance to germs was low.”
CHOC had been very supportive of the family at the hospital, said Ms Luiters.
“During the time, I had to give up my work, and they gave food vouchers and gave us emotional support at the hospital.”
Rahmlynn had now been in remission since the age of 8, and she enjoyed watching movies and TikTok videos, Ms Luiters said.
Ralf van der Merwe, of Ruyterwacht, said his granddaughter, Tameron Meyer, 15, had been diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 12.
“Tammy experienced pain in her leg; then we took her to the day hospital that referred her to Tygerberg Hospital, and they did some tests and told us she has leukaemia.”
Tameron had had to be at the hospital for five months and he and his wife had been there every day to support her, he said. Then over the next three years, Tameron had to visit the hospital regularly for treatment.
“The treatment went to every second day and then a week and then once per month until they discharged her and told her to come now every six months for assessments.”
Mr Van der Merwe said CHOC was very supportive of the family. “My wife and I would sleep at the hospital, and CHOC would provide us a safe space to sleep at their lodge that is on the premises of Tygerberg Hospital.”
During that time, Mr Van der Merwe and his wife met other families coming from Robertson and Worcester who were staying at the CHOC facilities.
“We are still friends with them up until this day,” he said.
Tameron said she still had to visit the hospital for medication, but she now felt much better and she could play football again. “I am really appreciative of my family and the support given by CHOC during that time.”
The head of the paediatric haematology-oncology service at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Professor Alan Davidson, said he always told patients’ families to own the word “cancer” otherwise it would own them.
Families who have children with cancer should not lose focus on the rest of the family, he said.
“Like giving special treatment and not putting children with cancer in line if they misbehave. That does not help the child in the long run nor the relationship with their siblings.”
Lynette Muthuray, the regional manager of the provincial CHOC office, said every family they helped became part of the CHOC family.
“We commemorate National Cancer Survivors Day by celebrating all the doctors and health-care workers who have taken care of families to fight this terrible disease.”
Visit choc.org.za or call 021 531 0052 during office hours to find out more about how you can support CHOC.