We know this story will touch your hearts as our sisters’ life has touched so many others around her.
Sharing this story will hopefully help other individuals and their loved ones experiencing the same pain, shock and ultimately facing a journey with the same difficulties: I can only hope your story ending is as happy as ours.
This is the real story which Debs as the Sufferer and us a family,
went through. It can only inspire and motivate people in all walks
of life no matter what their battle.
At the tender age of nine
, after suffering through two years of unbearable pain located in her lower left ribcage doctors finally discovered our little angel Debs had a rare form of Cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, and ultimately the prognosis was a death sentence. For the two years leading up to the diagnosis doctors and specialists had decided and deduced that my sister was suffering from a physcosomatic illness and was using this as a play for attention. The reason I am telling you that is because it is utter nonsense and another crucial point to this story which I will explain later. I have grown up in a family where love is given freely and equally, even when Debs was really ill my parents showered Bron and I with the same care and attention, at the age
of 31 I still believe I am a princess because my folks tell me so!
Ewings Sarcoma is a form of cancer which usually effects the long bones of the body, mainly the fibula, unfortunately this grotesque
invasion of an innocent child’s body is a type of Cancer which comes with a feeble 2% survival rate. For my sister, my angel and best friend, the Primary tumor located on her ribcage and infiltrating her tiny lung, had been given
the chance to grow to the size of a large orange.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, this was the beginning of a 24 year journey filled with many
operations, treatments and hospital stays. On the day of diagnosis Faith
kicked in and we all believed in the Scripture given to my amazing mum
and the Family Rock,“ Though there are many mountains to climb yet
you will come out on the other side stronger and better”, we
prepared, we grew closer and we knew Cancer was Limited and could
not steal this beautiful child and sister….. no matter how hard,
rocky and narrow the road would be.
The first operation took place
and this mass was removed along with three ribs and a quarter of
Debs lung, her little abdomen reconstructed with wire ribs and a steel mesh. Three years of
chemotherapy at the Joburg general hospital were to follow… Amazingly enough, or should I just say
because Debs is Debs, the chemo made her sick only once, and then
it was greasy food and salt and vinegar chips all the way… still
my amazing sister kept her rosy cheeks and bright and cheery disposition, aided by an
amazing Mother who slept in a chair next to her child every night
and watched over all the other little bodies with love and care, they were a light to everyone from the beginning. I was
just five at the time and being as close a family as we are,
myself, Bronni and my Pops would be at the Johannesburg Gen – then
know for it’s amazing paediatric Oncology ward and Doctors – every
day until late into the night. Only to return home to what my Dad
believed was the most sustainable meal… Peas, Beans and Chops! It
is no wonder Bronni is such a great cook as we certainly could not
survive on that every evening! During her second year of chemo,
Debs discovered a small protruding bump on her skull. The
Chemotherapy was not working and a dreaded secondary tumour had
grown. With Ewings Sarcoma when a secondary mass of these rapidly
multiplying Cancer cells appears, they are said to spread like wildfire through your body. The difference was we had the best
fire-fighter in the world on our side; yes our Heavenly Father
could put out anything from a tiny ember to a blazing building.
Faith again kept Debs and the rest of us going and already miracles
were happening – these tumours generally only appear when they are
too large to “fix” and pain is not a common symptom – Debs had pain, amazing!
However the Doctors called my folks, and this innocent, strong and
beautiful child, into a cold hospital room and told them it was a
matter of months, weeks or even days before our sis would lose her
life. That day is etched, carved and stamped into my memory
forever; I was seven, Debs eleven and Bronni thirteen years old. Driving
home from the hospital my folks, Bron and I were beyond
devastated , gutted, heartbroken and absolutely helpless. My Mother
sobbed, my Father roared with fury- helpless in the fact that as a man he was physically unable to do anything for his child- and then gulped down tears. Bron
and my worlds were ending our pillar of strength would soon exist
as only a memory. Sitting quietly in that car Debs was calm and at
peace, deep down inside she knew that she would be victorious and with
an amazing amount of Faith and strength hard to fathom of a child at just 11 years old , Debs calmed
us all down and informed everyone then and there that she was going
to win this battle with Jesus. A document was signed, and her name
was once again written by her and God in the book of life. Despite
the medical doom and gloom and more pro quality than quantity of life, the
Doctors, who by now had fallen in love with this little hero,
decided to take a chance , instead of letting my sister die they decided to try a course of radiation. The result – after two years, this twelve by two centimeter invasion of her tiny
skull, had grown only 2cms! The doctors could not believe it – just as she said she would be, she was
still alive and the mass had grown so slowly- a Medical Miracle was declared and a decision to
operate made. The giant mass would be removed along with a large
section of the skull on top of her head. A further miracle occurred
during the surgery, my amazing mother prayed beforehand that the
tumour would be encapsulated between the lobes of the brain and
would not have penetrated the brain at all, the first thing the
surgeon, Peter Biel, said as he came out of surgery, “Wow, I managed to literally lift the tumour out as it had not
invaded the brain at all”, which of course would have caused brain
and nerve damage. For the next two years Debs walked around with a
“hole” in her head and no protection. She donned just her rapidly
multiplying Faith. Alas and sadly the radiation and surgery had not worked completely as one microscopic cell left behind, able to travel through the
blood and form tumours where ever it pleases, had done so and a new malignancy had
formed, again a bump and pain were prevalent, however this time,
smaller masses kept on popping up on the margin of the
previous tumour around the Debs skull area. After copious amounts of radiation, hours of
discussion and prayer and on a bit of a whim, we decided to take
our sis to Cincinnati, Ohio where our Aunt and Uncle, Sandy and
Steven Amoils are medical doctors, and have access to the best
Surgeons and Oncologists in the world – and let it be known the
kindest and most compassionate men and woman whose hands we had the
joy and peace, of placing our Debs life in. Radical Surgery was
decided on as the only option. The latest mass was removed and
reconstruction of my darling sisters head begun.
Using a vein from her calf, skin from her thigh, a large muscle
from her back and titanium. my precious sister’s skull was
reconstructed, this took thirteen very long hours. Surprising not
only us but the surgeons in America, Debs was up and at our Aunt’s
graduation within a week the doctors even discounted there charges
as they were so inspired by this child.
But sadly this was not the
end of her battle…. A year later following a bump and pain, yet
again….we discovered a tumour on Debs knee and pelvis,
refusing to have her knee joint removed as was recommended. Debs
decided enough of trying to make her the bio-mechanical woman and
opted to go for radiation. The course worked on her knee
dissolving the mass completely but not on her pelvis and a few
months later a hemi-pelvectomy was performed removing a large
section of the hip bone and replacing it with steel plates for reinforcement and
support. These were later removed as they did not graft and Debs now has no support in
her pelvis – this is the part of your body which supports all your weight – and people still stare at her slight limp – it maddens me. Debs was flat on her back for 6 weeks and still no
complaining. I always say it’s amazing how these things do truly
happen to those of us who can handle it. I think I would have given
up years before if it had been me and i’m sure plenty agree. After
this last surgery finally the cancer HAD BEEN BEATEN but the
repercussions of all this have been enormous:
During the twelve
years of cancer so many unrelated problems occurred linked to the
operations and treatment. One of the chemotherapy drugs, adreomycin
has a strictly no exercise rule this was totally unbeknownst to us
and Debs was an unbelievable swimmer. After a gala one night she
went into heart failure and is now on chronic heart medication for
the rest of her life. Through the wire ribs and steel mesh being
used to reconstruct the rib cage, one of the wire ribs had come
loose and lodged itself one millimeter away from Debs’ spinal cord.
Once again, thinking this was psychosomatic, Debs was put in a back
brace – squashing this wire invasion further into the spine. After
discovering the actual cause of the problem, doctors could not and
still cannot believe she is walking today. Then, ever the fanatical
Bayvel family rugby supporters (our father was a springbok
scrumhalf and so having no sons we were taught rugby in our cots)
during the 95 World Cup South Africa vs. Australia opening match
Debs, in excitement jumped up and sent a wire rib straight into her
scapula. We still tease our Dad that this is the only rugby injury
his offspring will ever give him! And yet through these struggles, Miracle after Miracle have occurred. Countless surgeries have been performed where tumours have been thought to
exist, but after much prayer before the surgeries, these have been
found to be healing fractures, and yes, the medical world was
amazed again. When there is no scientific explanation you only have
to glance upwards to know the answers.
In the eleven years that
Debs has been clear of cancer, medically if you are cancer free for
five years you are in remission, she has undergone more than fifty
two reconstructive operations, has suffered a mild stroke as a
result of the copious amounts of radiation and is now on Epilepsy
medication. Because of the operations on her head she will never have her own hair and has to wear an external prosthesis attached to dental implants which stick out of her skull – and us girl worry about cellulite and make- up!
Debs had to have a hysterectomy last year and so can never have children – this was her choice due to complications caused from the radiation being so close to her womb and the fact that the hormones produced during pregnancy can cause a cancer flare up. If one day I have to be a surrogate for this angel and hero, I will do so happily knowing I can give just an nth back to her of what she has given me.
The most beautiful thing though and the reason behind this story is a that through everything this angel has endured, she has
never felt sorry for herself or been resentful towards others for
being normal. Debs and our mom, Denise, have also touched the lives
of so many children and adults suffering with this cruel disease
and have given them hope that it can be beaten. Debs says if she
has had to have gone through all of this just to touch and inspire
these lives she would do it again in a heartbeat.
My mother and father are also the most amazing people. I don’t think one ever
knows what it feels like to have a sick child; being totally
helpless and having nothing within your reach to help. They have
also never neglected my older sister Bron or myself which is a rare
occurrence in these situations. Sitting here writing this story
makes me unbelievably emotional for what they have been through as
parents but yet so grateful to have such a wonderful family. Thanks
Mom and Dad, you are our pillars of strength… and to my older
sister Bron for sometimes having to look after me like a parent
when times were tough, she is a shining star and my second mom. But
most of all to the most inspirational sister, Debs, you are an
absolute angel sent form God to brighten up and inspire others
And to our Heavenly Father, your eye always was on the
sparrow. Thank you for all you have done for us. You knew your
plans for us before we were born and even though we may go through
physical, emotional or mental pain, those plans you have for us to
prosper and reign victorious over any battle give us hope everyday!
My sister, our motto from day one “Against all Odds” will one day be the book I write and the story that reaches millions. You have been through this to share it with the world and show them that your past, your upbringing, what happened before and the pain endured does not need to determine your future or leave you an old and bitter person. You have shown that you become what you want to become and that you can be a better person not because of, but in-spite what you have been through. Your story has meant we have a family so close and loving that we are never alone.
You have shown that Cancer can be beaten even if it takes a twelve year battle.
3 thoughts on “My Sister Debbie Bayvel is an Absolute Legend, Hero and Inspiration – Against All Odds”
An amazing story and amazing family. The relationship that you three sisters share is beautiful, honest and forever. I love reading your blog and being a part of your journey.
@Debs – I think God made you the way you are intentionally. I think in your life you have played many roles that have contributed to many lives, including mine. You have given people hope, perspective, love and real reason to be thankful for all the things they may have in their life.
You an angel of this earth.
I know you so well but still cannot help myself with tears when I read your story over and over again, and am always inspired Debs by your Courage and Faith, you are the most beautiful person I know and God has definately got a plan for you, I am so excited about you finding your man and really know God will bless this relationship. You are always in my mind and Love you lots Kimmy x
I am so touched by your story. Thank you for sharing. You are an inspiration to many. God bless you. xx