JOINING HEARTS, HANDS & FUNDS TO HELP THIS LEGENDARY LADY HANNELIE BEAT CANCER
– being jojo I only write this I do not have this type of strength and courage.
If you know me you will know that I have an angel and hero sister Debs Bayvel , who beat Cancer time and again over 39 years, with Faith and as is required with this dreaded disease, plenty of expensive yet vital medical treatment. I thank God and my amazing dad that we were always able to afford any and all treatments Debs needed.
Hannelie Swart (a close friend of Yolandi Engelbrecht who in turn is one of Debs best friends and a consistent, loving rock in Debs life) is losing her battle to Cancer because she CANNOT afford the treatment that CAN save her….
Tears of despair roll down my cheeks as this lady who has such strength, faith and dignity may die due to a lack of money and a medical aid which is denying her life – money I know even bit by bit we can raise. However as is the case with Cancer, a ticking time bomb, her disease is spreading so quickly and these rapidly multiplying cells are attacking and invading every inch of her now tiny and frail body.
Can you help me spread this story faster than those cells can multiply … I know you can.
TIME is of the ESSENCE and so I am writing this and appealing to the hearts of each and every person myself, my family, my friends and strangers know. I can only hope I have surrounded myself with the kind of people who will donate whatever amount they can afford, to save the life of someone so utterly kind and special.
Hannelie Swarts story – her strength and words are her very own I have only penned her story.
In 2014 at 53 years of age Hannelie received those dire words, heard too often these days, while sitting all alone in her doctors consulting room, “You have Melanoma cancer and the diagnosis is terminal”. Shocked, terrified and reeling at this death sentence imposed so unexpectedly, just wanting to escape, Hannelie sat in her car and called her best friend … both sobbed uncontrollably.
A life cut short so quickly… What goes through your mind?
As you sit frozen, this disease does not stop and allow you your sorrows, it continues to kill you as quickly as it can, wrenching the life out of you with no compassion or conviction.
What Hannalie has been diagnosed with is an exceedingly rare and incredibly aggressive form of Cancer known as ‘Malignant Melanoma Cancer” – but what is in a title if it is merely words that explain a deadly cancer with a high recurrence rate and until very recently no successful treatments made available. In Hannalie’s case we cannot say she could have and should have avoided the sun as her melanoma is not on her exposed body. Her cancer presented itself as vaginal primary malignant melanoma accounting for 0.3 – 0.8% of all malignant melanomas.
Sadly making her prognosis even worse….
Yet today and as you will read later on, Hannelie says she reads the below quote and is motivated….how many of us in a desperate state and facing death could find one ounce of motivation for anything and yet, she does…
“Cancer is not a death sentence, but rather a life sentence. It pushes one to live” – Marcia Smith.
Friends are your hearts not aching a little already to help this lady?
Deciding to fight this disease WHICH CAN BE BEATEN, as the strong yet gentle lady she is, Hannalie went to a gynaecologist oncologist Professor Snyman, who explained that she would on the 8th September 2014, have an operation which would involve a radical hysterectomy, vaginectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy. Unknown terms racing through her mind, alone and losing the parts of her which made her feel like the lady she is, Hannelie was absolutely terrified but with no option she had the operation.
Although she experienced immense pain after this operation Hannelie recovered and was back at work within 8 weeks. In her words “I was blessed to have wonderful friends and family to support me all the way through the operation and afterwards. I knew that my life was in God’s hand and I was never alone.”
Again tears stream and my heart is broken. How does someone remain so positive and appreciative when going through the deepest and darkest valleys?
And in 2014 life continued for Hannelie with no chemotherapy or radiation required (Thank you Lord as this was a miracle) well I guess I have to say as I have witnessed it for 30 years, life continued as a “Cancer Survivor” with regular scans and check-ups.
After a year of “normal scan results” at the end of 2015 Hannelie had to undergo surgery for an incisional hernia caused from her previous abdominal operation. I can never fathom why after beating this disease the victor will still need to battle through operations and problems which arise from the battle…. SADLY during this operation the surgeon discovered new and more Melanoma Tumours.
Knowing how we have always felt with Debs and watching her hear these words countless times “ a recurrence, metastasised, stage 2, terminal” I can only imagine that Hannelie felt the same – those words you never thought you would hear again will shatter and destroy… freeze you, shock you, numb you and finally bring you to your knees sobbing and desperate. With one place to look and that is upwards to Heaven and then as I have witnessed so very often, somewhere from deep inside these incredible survivors will find the strength to fight again.
And so entering the ring again, Hannelie went back to her gynaecologist and was given the heart wrenching news that she would need to decide on having another major operation involving a pelvic exenteration (a radical surgery that removes all pelvic organs – urinary bladder, urethra, rectum and anus). Realising on that day that her life was about to change forever Hannalie researched and prayed. She even contacted CANSA knowing that if or at this stage when, the time came she would need them to face death with dignity. They were amazing and even introduced Hannelie to a lady who had had the very same operation… later Hannelie in her amazing way would help them by raising funds for CANSA …
And now we need to raise funds for Hannelie..
Deciding that no matter what they took from her she wanted to live in order to spend more time with her precious friends and family, Hannelie – with an enormous amount of faith – underwent a seven hour operation on the 12th May 2016 even knowing that she would now have a permanent colostomy and urostomy – in non-medical terms these are known as “Stomas” which are surgically created openings on the abdomen to collect the waste products (urine and faeces) which our bodies would usually get rid of naturally.
Again tears stream how much can one body take, how much of you can YOU lose and still LIVE afterwards…?
In hospital still weak and tired Hannelie named this her ‘Mount Everest’ challenge. In her own words everyday felt like she had achieved something major even if it was just her saltwater bath routine. “I asked God to give me enough energy just for the day. He says in his word, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34). His grace is new every day. Although it was difficult to cope, God sent the right people my way. Help and support were always close. “
The beautiful strength of our Hannelie our angel continued to shine through. Can we continue to show Hannelie this type of love and support?
After fifteen days Hannalie was discharged from hospital and desperate to get home just to be with her precious dog, a love we can all understand as even though she was now perhaps disfigured and ‘damaged’ her pal would give her the unconditional love she so deserved.
Hannelie did discover that her Mount Everest climb was just beginning as every day after she left the hospital, would bring with it new challenges. She had to get used to the stoma pouches, she was unable to eat solid foods, and she couldn’t sleep and found it incredibly difficult to walk. Her left leg was very swollen to the extent that she was unable to even lift it – that alone took six months to return to normal.
Experiencing good and bad days, Hannelie had to learn to change the stoma pouches every day where some days even if urine would leak from the bag it would leave her helpless and in tears. Hannalie had amazing help from her stoma therapist and says if it wasn’t for these angels in her life she wouldn’t have made it.
I think she is the angel….
As Hannelie says though… as a lady as a woman as a human being…
“My body will never look or feel the same. After my operation I used to cry when I looked at my body. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I have cried when I have to clean the stomas and replace the pouches. It gets better with time but it is still difficult some days.”
And we think a Telkom line going down is a MAJOR Difficulty…..
As a result of the operation Hannelie was booked off from work for 3 months and then discovered she was afraid to go back to work and couldn’t quite get her head around the difficulties it would bring. As a personal assistant she would need to attend meetings and take minutes and was so scared that she wold not be able to perform all her duties as she did before. She now had a colostomy which means no sphincter muscle around the stoma, so she has no control over her bowel or flatulence. The embarrassment of sitting in a room full of people who would hear these intimate noises terrified her.
Being the strong and dedicated lady she is, she proudly survived the 1st day, then the 1st month and life at work got better with time until it was too sore to sit for long periods of time and she had to start working half days.
And then, again Tragedy struck… In the form of stage 4 cancer
In August of 2016 inoperable multiple lung metastases and nodules were found in the right upper lobe anterior, right mid lobe and posterior right upper lobe of her lungs. Although still small (measuring only 3 x 3 mm and 5 x 5 mm). Hannelie was devastated, and her cancer now classified in the end stages of this dreadful disease as Stage 4.
Chemotherapy was decided on as everyone rallied around and wanted this kind and amazing lady to survive. The chemo (Dacarbazine) cost R10,000-00 per treatment, her medical aid sent their approval and the course started over September and October 2016.
Dacarbazine is the standard 1st line treatment for patients with malignant metastatic melanoma.
For decades, chemotherapy with Dacarbazine has served as the standard in patients with inoperable metastatic melanoma, despite the fact that the survival rate as a result of treatment from this drug has never been shown to work in clinical trials. Pure poison running through your system, damaging everything in its path, both the healthy and unhealthy parts, for nothing….
Although she knew this treatment may not save her life as its response rate is so limited, Hannelie had to try it before her medical aid would approve immunotherapywhich has a far better response rate but is very expensive.
In October of 2016 Hannelie went for a CT scan post these chemotherapy sessions only to hear more disappointing news. Some of the lung metastases had increased in size and multiple new tumours were now visible. The cancer had also spread to her liver. The chemotherapy had not worked at all…
Hannelies’s oncologist suggested starting with immunotherapy immediately but application for this therapy takes time as it has to be referred to the SA Oncology Consortium and with Cancer time is never on one’s side and so Hannelies friends and family started praying that her treatment would be approved rapidly. And of course this treatment is also very expensive.
Yet what is the value one can place on a life?
Thankfully in November, Bankmed approved 4 sessions of immunotherapy ( for more on this treatment please see link). The cost is exorbitant at R288,359-36 per treatment. And as Hannelie says, she was incredibly blessed with no side effects (just ) a skin rash, headaches and fatigue. Her hair didn’t fall out and she didn’t experience any nausea.
Grateful for these things what a true heroine? Not many of us could even copy daily with these side effects….
Hannelie’s last treatment, with the four spaced out every twenty one days, was completed in February 2017.
Still terrified and wracked with a feeling of helplessness and excepting bad news, Hannelie went for a CT scan on the 25th February 2017.
However God being the amazing Father He is shone his light on Hannelie and the scan showed a significant reduction in the size and number of her lung tumours. The liver nodules were still present but considerably smaller. Two of the three previously noted had slightly decreased in size. And finally the best news, no new metastatic lesions were seen. Having seen these amazing results, a miracle on a black and white film, her oncologist immediately suggested an application be requested from Bankmed for four more sessions.
The sky had cleared, a rainbow appeared and hope was again discovered.
You see, Immunotherapy will give you a 65.4% chance of survival however the cost is just to “high” for these medical aids which are more intent on making money than saving lives… they requested a liver test and on receiving the results took this ladies life, looked at the costs on paper and decided she was not going to go for more therapy….
You see money is far more important than life, I guess? What a sad day and age we live in when a boardroom of professionals can have no empathy.
Desperate Hannelie and her oncologist applied for just two sessions and again after another scan and despite such positive results, the desperate please for life was declined by strangers who I guess sleep at night knowing their bank accounts are full but to me, they must have pretty empty hearts…
So today we are here,
Hannelie was disappointed with the decision as not getting any more treatment meant as she sits today she IS DYING and she cannot do a thing about it, this precious, special and brave lady.
I am stepping in as even though Hannelie says “I have to trust on the Lord and believe that everything will work out for the good. “ I would hope that’s someone would do the same for me and for those I know and love….
Please I make a plea to your hearts help… if you are ever in this situation I will do my utmost to make sure you get the care you deserve.
Let us set a goal to raise the money for two more treatments…
It is a lot at R 576 720 but at a hundred rand ( what you spend on a coffee, cocktails or posting selfies on IG) from five thousand people, the number of “friends” so many of us have on Facebook alone, means WE CAN DO IT especially if we spread this story everywhere and in every way we can…
Please let your heart reach out to this lady lets show Bankmed we can do it and perhaps they will then pay for the rest.
As you approach your 39th birthday my darling Debs, I would never have thought that writing this a year later we would all STILL be struggling a little with one of over 100 battles you my darling angel sis, has endured over the past 30 years in your journey of victory over the dreaded ‘C’. BUT my little one you are ALIVE and can you believe you weren’t meant to live beyond 11! God kept His promise.
Debs I share your story again on my blog as I have yet to write your book, my anxiety is little bit of bad (I am under construction) and the book is a long work in progress (why you had do have so many operations and so much treatement I don’t know :p ) but whilst we wait on that, let’s hope these snippets will inspire other family members of and individuals who, are fighting any disease. AGAIN CANCER CAN BE BEATEN… no terminal prognosis is a death sentence with Hope, Faith & loads of Love.
PS my sis…
How wonderful my little one that everyday is a new, exciting and beautiful opportunity to heal and bask in the victory and a subtle peace that only our Heavenly Father can provide.
You beat the disease after a torturous 11/12 year battle and you were clear for eighteen years and after a little ‘mishap’ last year, now again we start the journey and you are a year in remission again… that was the last chapter of your book and now you live your life so that I can write a most poignant, deserved and beautiful epilogue to your book “Against All Odds.”
BTW … being the one chosen to do so is so humbling.
For last years story I have done a copy and paste below…
This blog entry has been one I have been meaning to write for a little while now. It is an update on our Debs and is but an nth of her lifes’ tale.
I guess it has taken this long as the pain, heart ache and trauma have yet to wear off, and even though we have another happy ending… it’s still something our family; and especially my darling, beautiful sister Debs, never thought we would have to endure again. This was by far the worst experience we have had in your journey, even though you were ‘supposed’ to die at 11 and are now 38.
My heart aches and tears flow freely as these words are typed. But I will write it my angel, for those fighting the battle against Cancer who need to know what the power of Faith in our Heavenly Daddy and strength of mind against any dire and terminal medical diagnosis can achieve. Again and again as you have proved for 28 years, CANCER can be BEATEN.
Most of all my angel sister I write this for you and for God…For another miracle He performed for your life saved again for having our daughter and sister still with us…
My sister, my legend, my muse, my hero, my stability and the ying to my yang, my better half. I honestly thought that the book I was to write about your amazing, miracle filled life story “Against All Odds”, had its final chapter completed 17 years ago even though you have had many major and minor complications which followed your 11 year battle. What we didn’t know and perhaps even why, was that God had another plan and I was not meant to finish this book until the epilogue was finally ready to be written and my love, knowing how much He adores you and just how much you deserve, it is going to be a more beautiful ending then what any of us can anticipate. What we do know is that the final chapter has been penned in His book if Life.
My little one, here we go again another story from the life of a girl who amazes me each and every single day.
What an exciting start to our 2016, which quickly turned into something out of a Stephen King novel ( big eyes and a shake of the head with a grin). Sitting chatting in our favourite place with our Momsy and Pops – Madikwe, surrounded by the tranquil and magnificent African bushveld in an oasis our Dad has so graciously blessed us with being able to go to – being the closest of close families we are, we decided on a wim that we would all move to Cape Town. We wanted to be closer to our other part and older sis Bronni, brother-in-law Bruce, our adorable nephew Cole and soon to be but now 4 month old other little poppet of a nephew Cade. Dad had just retired, we work for ourselves and Johannesburg was no longer safe, we wanted out of the concrete jungle. We booked our flights, rented our house, sent our furniture and cars and on April the 1st we would be living our new lives in the beautiful Mother City.
Ha! April Fools it was. But sadly the joke never ended that day…
What started off with Debs feeling ill and having what we all thought was a bleeding ulcer turned into a tumultuous two month nightmare. If I get dates wrong, it is because the days seemed to all blend into one another during this time… but I will try.
Due to go in for a Gastroscope on Friday the 26th of Feb, we decided that instead of waiting we would rush our little Debs, who was pale and incredibly weak to Sunnighill Hospital on the Wednesday evening. I don’t think that anyone will understand how I can say this when Debs has been through what we will believe is ENOUGH, but God was opening a door that night to ensure that this precious girl would be kept safe and left in the best surgeons hands. Mom, dad and I waited in casualty, whilst the man and surgeon, who would become the one we knew we could trust with Debs’ life and a source of side splitting laughter on the darkest of days, examined our angel. Dr Leslie Fingleson – head of trauma at Sunninghill and a BRILLIANT surgeon – or ‘Uncle Les’ as he quickly became known due to each of us calling him some absurd version of his surname far too many times ( I even had to google his ‘real’ name now), booked Debs in and decided to do a Gastroscope the following day. Her hemoglobin levels were low and something was not right.
We call it a miracle and are again amazed at how our God works, as when Uncle Les did the scope, both ends, he discovered no source for the bleed. He did however find a hernia and decided that where Debs had had her hemi-pelvictomy ( one of the many body parts Debs has had removed), he would operate and remove the hernia and place pigs skin as a graft, around the area where Debs bowels were not covered by bone and caused her discomfort. Ahh Uncle Les .. Orthodox and using pigs skin, we even had a giggle at that
Still in hospital, brightening up the days of everyone around her, smiling, laughing, praying and being her incredible brave self, Debs went in for her 59th major operation.Two hours later Les came to find my Mom, Dad, Aunty Carol and myself in the canteen. First Debs our shining star had made it through the operation but had had a bad reaction to the anesthetic and her systolic blood pressure level had nearly dropped to the point of having to be put on a respirator. And then with just a few words uttered; words we thought we would never hear again… our worlds were about to be shaken up and our hearts broken again… tumour, strange looking cells, thickened colon…Cancer. 17 years free of that dreaded noose, and it was back strung tighter then ever.
Never one to not give us a sign that he loves Debs so very much and that his eye is always on this tiny sparrow, we did have a miracle during this operation. Les was going to in from the front to perform the procedure and at the last minute flipped Debs onto her back and went in through an old scar… if he hadn’t have done this, the tumour would have not have been found until it was perhaps to late.
But again the journey we have all endured, most especially Debs, had started again and the road ahead was filled with more bumps, cures and potholes than we could have thought possible.
Bronni our precious older sis and the one that makes up the third part of our whole, who was very pregnant, Bruce our incredibly caring and kind brother-in-law and Cole our nephew, flew straight to Johannesburg. One thing I can say is that as a family, we are not perfect and we fight and argue as any other family does, however our lives experiences have brought us so close together and it is something to be cherished and something so beautiful, that we can pull together and love each other so very much in times of tragedy and triumph. Misfortunes so often bring hidden blessings, that we just need to open our eyes and hearts, to find.
Tests were done on the area Uncle Les had removed and it was determined that it was an Adenocarcinoma – a malignant tumour formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissue. another grotesque invasion of Debs tiny body. This time totally unrelated to ‘Her’ Cancer which was Ewings Sarcoma, it is thought that this Adenocarcinoma may have been caused by all the radiation on Debs pelvis, treatment that kills a disease and does not stop working in your body for up to twenty years, which means it can eventually cause the same disease it sets out to destroy. The irony is not lost on any of us and let it be known it is not lost on the Doctors either.
It was then decided that after undergoing further tests to ensure this malignancy had not spread, Uncle Les would need to do another operation to remove my angel sisters right colon, her appendix and the pigs skin. Despite other surgeons insisting my folks and Debs go see an oncologist for a second opinion and perhaps chemotherapy and radiation, Debs’ wanted her days of thunderstorms over, as one cancer cell left in a body can travel as fast as lightening and strike wherever it pleases. So we prepared for another major operation. At this time my poor older sis, Bronni had to fly back to Cape Town due to the stage in her pregnancy and my heart aches for her as I cant even understand how much she struggled being apart from us during this time. She is a loving nurturer by nature and even took on the role as my second mom growing up when my amazing momma would sleep on a chair for weeks on end next to Debs hospital bed.
Mom, dad, myself and Aunty Carol – moms older sister, and the ying to her yang who was never apart from us – became our Debs face to face support system, well us, and the one we cannot possibly compete with, our Daddy up above. And of course support came in with face time calls everyday from our Bronni and nephew and moms third part and other sis Sandi and our Uncle Steve Amoils ( both Doctors in America ). So many other amazing people visited I cannot even name them all … clients of mine, Aunty Dee, our dearly departed Fergie. Whatspp chat groups and prayer chains were started and updated daily and even when we didn’t respond to people, as you just sometimes cannot do when your mind is in that state of chaos, the love and prayers kept on coming…. Our Debs is well and truly adored and living with her I know why.
And so before this next surgery, to make sure that this dreaded disease had not crept in to her lymph nodes and liver we first had to go for CT scans and before this they have to inject a fluid to make the ‘resolution higher’ in simple terms . My beautiful Debs has very few surface veins left after having so much chemotherapy in her lifetime, and this day remains so poignantly etched in my mind, as I yet again watched nurses and doctors prod my sisters tiny body in search of a simple vein to inject fluid. I glanced down at my hands wishing I could give her just one of mine.. and yet she remained brave and strong and kind to these people. My Debs you astound me. As she was wheeled into that room and placed under a cold, metal machine which would tell the tale of her fate, my mom said to me and my aunt ” They will Look and they will not See”.. not from her mouth but a quiet whisper in her soul from God. Yet again we had peace that belies all earthly understanding and they did look and did not see anything! We were going ahead with the operation and nothing more had to be removed.
With one car left in Johannesburg, no Winter clothing (I think we now have shares in the Pink n Pay clothing department) and living 45 minutes from the hospital in no traffic, dad and I began what would eventually make up approximately 160 trips to the hospital as there was not one moment of the day we did not want to be there during visiting hours and when we left all we wanted to do was go home and not see anyone, even if we had to drive into the garage, reverse and leave again. My beautiful selfless mom slept on a chair next to her child’s’ bed as often as she could when Debs was not in ICU.
On the 9th of March, a very scared and incredibly emotionally and physically exhausted family sat in a hospital room with a girl going in for her 60th major operation after she nearly didn’t make it through the previous one.Our daughter, sister, friend and angel on this earth was smiling but also a little nervous. Would this be the last time we saw her? Would this be a final goodbye to my best friend in the world? I don’t even know how to put into words how we all felt and I simply cannot even fathom how Debs felt… tears stream again and these memories return…
And yet God placed His hand on all of us again, we were all somehow distracted, Debs was rushed into theater and Uncle Les, who by now had become emotionally attached to this little fighter, came to find us again in the canteen, before she was even in recovery – we love this man – and told us she was FINE! The operation was successful and the Cancer was gone. Tears of relief flowed especially from my fathers eyes… I will not forget that sight. Again this man who has protected us and saved us girls from everything even our own mistakes, had felt so helpless in not having anything within his reach to help his baby girl , his daughter and she was okay…. well for three days anyway.
Off the topic a little but importantly and a little reason I am updating people, is that even with modern technology and cellphones and social media updates we still have broken telephone syndrome and many people think Debs still has Cancer, she doesn’t, YET AGAIN SHE BEAT IT… Debs you legend! And Father God thank you for saving my sister again.
We took our Debs home on that Friday and on Saturday, her and I spent a lovely day together, with our precious pooches , watching our favourite TV shows, with her lugging around a vacuum pump to close the wound on her tummy – another long scar, an open wound, a small infection; in this heroes life these are the tiny things, the things that in our lives would be major. But by Sunday morning our frail and beautiful Debs was in agony. Debs has the highest pain threshold of anyone I know, she has had bone removed without anesthetic and on this day she was screaming and shouting in agony. I cannot imagine the pain she was in, as a sore throat for me is enough to keep me in bed for a week. We prayed, we gave Debs painkillers, we tried to get her to sleep, but by that evening she was still in sheer agony and near collapsing and we again rushed her to Sunninghill Clinic. The next five weeks would be the worst of our lives.
Debs was booked in and my mom again stayed with her, dad and I drove home both silently lost in despair.By that Wednesday after three days of pure agony with no respite or sleep, our little treasure was booked into ICU. Debs is more OCD then any of us with cleanliness, and we can all be pretty bad, and that morning when dad and I arrived she did not even want to brush her teeth. My heart broke, as this to me who knows my sister so well, was a sign that she had had enough and that the end was near. Debs is my life, my heart and losing her would be like losing half of my physical body and my soulmate.We were all shattered and at to this day I do not know how Debs had made it through those last four days in so much pain – you will understand her sheer determination and strength a little further on, when we discovered what was wrong.
The reason for being taken into ICU was to have her fed TPN through a central line, be looked after 24 hours a day and be given morphine to take away the pain. Uncle Les also thought Debs may have had a blockage – this would be where the colon was joined back to the small intestine and would mean no food or water could pass through and is pretty common with bowel operations. Nothing common for our Debs though. X-Rays showed no blockage and so we had to wait five weeks for the inflammation in the bowels to ‘go down’ to make sure this operation had worked. I think at this stage Uncle Les was flummoxed as he could not even give us a reason as to why Debs was in pain, or if she would be okay and quite honestly what the problem was.
Three times a day we would visit my sister, awake and conscious surrounded by people in coma’s and terrible states. Three people passed away whilst Debs was there and watching their family’s grieve or seeing people after accidents, paralyzed and broken; how grateful we were that Debs was alive and if a few pieces less… still wholly with us.
And yet, its okay to also say I cannot understand how desperate and sad Debs felt, this fighter, this angel, lying in a bed in agony surrounded by death and disease and not knowing if she was going to make it…. I don’t think we will ever understand what she felt.
For those five weeks, there were many nights and often times during the day, when we were not with her, when we thought we would get a call from ICU… telling us that Debs was gone and in Heaven. Yet, she survived five weeks of pure pain, sheer gut wrenching pain and we know that she did this with her fighting heart and strong mind. But more than that she did this with the comfort and strength of Jesus. I do not judge people on race or religion and believe one must just be happy in their own walk. I will not however ever deny my Faith and neither will my family because of the miracles we have seen in our sister and daughters life, and not only that… the peace and comfort you get from having someone to lean on, an ever omni-present Father who gives you peace when you are terrified and hope when you are hopeless. This love and peace and Faith got us all, especially Debs, though this time. So before we go onto op number 61…..
I remember praying that night until the morning and opening my Bible on Psalm 91 and amazing and unbelievable as this sounds, my Debs opened her Bible on that scripture to …. these things make me gaze upwards and smile. As imperfect a person as I am my Redeemer still gives me Hope and Love and Peace. 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
After these five weeks, Uncle Les eventually said that after Debs had had no bowel movement he had to ‘go in’ and investigate. This was on a Tuesday – again a shattered and broken family sat in a hospital canteen not knowing if we would see our angel again and yet again Uncle Les came to find us… and with teary eyes himself he said ” someone is looking after that child”, Debs small intestines were stuck to the pigs skin ( I may not have the full medical jargon correct here) however the agony that she was in, we all now realised was beyond what the Doctors or anyone can comprehend. Les bypassed this area and rejoined the small intestine to the bowel.
On that Wednesday whilst Debs and I were praying in ICU, we said with our God we were going to get her out of ICU by the Friday and home by the Sunday. This was a crazy dream as bowel ops take up to a year to heal! Guess what though… on Friday Debs was in a ward and after our girls night sleepover on Saturday, where I slept on a chair next to her bed and as this clumsy little sister would do, took her bed off of its brakes by mistake and in my non princess-like way I sleep, kicked the bed and nearly sent Debs out the window off the 3rd floor of the hospital and straight back into ICU! Uncle Les walked in on Sunday morning and said ” Would you like to go home Debs?”. It might have been seeing me their and worrying that I would send more patients to his trauma unit, but a bigger part of me knows it was again an answered prayer and a miracle.
Just a week later Debs was up and walking and eating basically what she wanted and we made our move, 7 dogs and all, to Cape Town reunited with our other sis, Bruce, little Cole and my adorable new nephew and Godson Cade, who just had to come into this world a little early to make us all smile and me a little broody…
No it has not been plain sailing. Debs wounds are still not fully healed and her lymph is not draining in her leg. Countless visits to amazing nurses in Cape Town have happened and our family is struggling a little with this trauma.
I look at my amazing folks and cannot understand what they have felt like dealing with a ‘sick’ child for most of 28 years. It must be so hard and heart breaking and at times they must just feel so helpless … they are beautiful and handsome and so very special but I can see how this has aged and affected their souls and hearts. They have given us the most amazing lives in-spite of the fact that I am sure it has not always been easy for them to do. They love us equally and they devote their lives to us. They are role models as husband and wife and as mother and father…. giving their all and taking so little back in return. Thank you Bronni for giving them such precious and adorable grand-kids who they adore and who adore them back. It is a gift you have managed to give back to them for all they have done for us.I hope to one day pay them back in some way too.
I have grown up and changed a lot – my anxiety and panic attacks are at an all time high and I spend many nights awake and in tears and days where I freeze I terror at the thought of doing simple things or that something will happen to one of the people I love. I know I still make mistakes and will never be perfect but my heart is back to the place where God wants it, in a place where I yearn to help those in need. I am back to the person I was as a young girl, filled with love and a gentleness of nature which is a gift I was born with to give back to others. Where I want to fall in love and give all of me and my heart to my own family – preferably whilst my pops can still walk me down the aisle.
And our Debs even as you battle with physical attributes that you think no one could ever love you with – YOU ARE AMAZING AND WORTHY OF MORE LOVE THAN ANYONE. My beautiful, yet again you have shown yourself to be a hero, a legend, a Warrior Princess; Beautiful beyond words on the inside and the outside. You are the epitome of what each and every person should aspire to be.Fearless and Brave – Loving and Sensitive.
As we collect your medical records now from 28 years , from hospitals all over this country and even America. I am excited to write this book, a story of hope, courage, Faith, bravery and my sis I am so proud that the person, the muse for this book is my very own sister and best friend. “Against All Odds” my darling sister, you have done it again and through this you have again proved 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. It has meant that we are all blessed with a Faith in God and the gift of eternal life, as we have seen miracles in your life which cannot be explained through rational thought, science or just plain mind power.
And to our Heavenly Daddy, you said “Be Still and Know” and as I end this entry, as tears pour down my cheeks I know that I can still smile and be bubbly and courageous tomorrow and always, as you have shown us that you are more than a conqueror. You are our everything and we adore you. Thank you for letting us keep our Heavenly angel on earth so we can share her story and your glory ….
Falling in love is divine. It’s boundless, bewildering, irrational, transcendent and impassioned. It awakens the soul to the best parts of our existence. Falling in love is not a restricted extravagance either. We can fall in love repeatedly, and in such a plethora of ways. We can wake up every day and decide to fall in love with each other, and with the life we have been given.
What if we took the time to fall in love with strangers? What if we made efforts to fall back in love with the people in our lives every chance we were given? What if we fell in love with places, smells, sites, sounds, faces, tastes, memories, experiences and everyday engagements of our emotions? There are so many hands you have never shaken, and names you’ve never learned. There are so many voices your ears wouldn’t recognize, and eyes you’ve never really looked into.
There are so many stories that go unheard. There are so many tears that go unseen, and healing embraces that never get the chance to perform their magic. We are faced with opportunities each day to open our hearts to every aspect of life worth falling madly in love with.
I try to fall in love every day. I pick the middle seat on the plane, to get blessed with two new friends and twice as many stories. I shake hands. I ask questions. I befriend everyone from the lady at the supermarket, to the couple laughing at my typically frantic sprint onto the train. I want to reach out every chance I can, regardless of the chances I take of being rejected or mocked. I find my soul warmed by the special ways that people laugh, or the unique pigment in their eyes when they really look into mine. People captivate me. Places, foods, art, music and stories can sweep me off my feet, and into a state of romanticism I cannot explain. I find that through all of the articles I write, the most critical piece of advice that I can give to any person is to embrace all love. We feel alone in a world filled with so many people and experiences just waiting to steal our hearts.
Disappointment and fear only gain the upper-hand when we start losing the ability to readily involve ourselves in love. That would be my most essential piece of advice, to go, my friend, and fall in love with this life.
1. Ask people the real questions. Ask about their passions, fears, hopes and dreams.
2. Introduce yourself. Be brave and vulnerable.
3. Listen to people. I mean really listen to them.
4. Help anyone you can, from strangers to your closest friends. Don’t turn away.
5. Get excited. Get excited about everything from your favorite TV show coming on to Lucky Charms being on sale at the grocery store. Rejoice in all of life’s little wins, and appreciate them for the ways they make life sweeter.
6. Visit old friends. Don’t let your friendships fade. Remember the reasons you are so thankful to have them in your life, and fight for them, like a lover would.
7. Travel to new places. Indulge yourself in the cultures. Experience everything the world has to offer, and don’t be fearful or close-minded to the opportunities set before you.
8. Put away your screens when you’re with people. If you want to spend time with someone, you should actually be there, physically and mentally.
9. Plan personal time with your friends and family.
10. Hug. Reach out your arms and wrap the people you love in them. Feel them. Embrace the connection that you have, and express that you’ll always be there to remind them of it.
11. Indulge your emotions in what you enjoy most. Scream like a crazy person at the basketball game, dance freely at the concert, and run like you never have to stop. Let go. Let yourself be charmed and delighted by your hobbies.
12. Show people your true colors.
13. Don’t try to hide who you are from anyone, and let others love you for the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, and the weak and the strong parts of who you are.
14. Express your opinions.
15. Involve your emotions in the priorities and matters of this world. You can’t fall in love with this life if you don’t care about the people in it.
16. Accept the opinions of others. Ask to hear about those opinions. Respect them. Learn from each other.
17. Wear your heart on your sleeve regardless of how terrifying it can feel to open up.
18. Appreciate the innocence of the world. Play with children and animals as readily as you can.
19. Learn from the beautiful display they have of unprecedented happiness. Fall in love with that, because it’s incredible.
20. Look into the eyes of the people you see and speak with. Show them that you are really there.
21. Take chances. Be spontaneous. Embrace the unexpected nature of love.
22. Smile. Even if some don’t smile back, others will, and you may find that the smiles shooting back at you steal your heart away.
23. Love your body. Treat it kindly and take care of it. Appreciate it for the unique vessel it is for your soul. Part of continually falling in love is being able to love yourself in your own skin.
24. Sit next to someone instead of alone. Try not to isolate yourself.
25. Be respectful, and expect it from others. Respect is a building block of mutual love.
26. Say “I love you.” Say “Thank you.” Say “I’m proud of you.”
27. Never trade opportunities for real conversation with the people who you love.
28. Exercise integrity with others. The truth is always worth falling for.
29. Say yes.
30. Give people the benefit of the doubt, even if others have let you down. Too often we avoid love because of wrongs committed by people in our pasts. Don’t let heartbreak control your ability to see the best in human beings.
31. Play games. Play outside. Have fun and let it consume you.
32. Share meals with friends and family, and also with people capable of becoming your friends and family.
33. Laugh uncontrollably whenever you want to. Laugh as much as possible. It heals the soul and unites you with others in remarkable ways.
34. Sing like a rock star. Let music move you.
35. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and bring out the best in you. The light you will inspire in each other is irreplaceable.
36. Try new foods. Try new wines. Try new flavors of ice cream. Food is a great lover.
37. Go on adventures. Anything from hiking a mountain to raiding the thrift store in the next town over can create the most amazing of discoveries.
38. Feel for others. Emphasize and have compassion. Let yourself be moved by them.
39. Dance uncontrollably. Whether you look like a superstar, or a flailing idiot like myself, let music take control of your body.
40. While you’re at it, grab a partner. We should all dance together.
41. Learn everything you can. Absorb information like a sponge. Fall in love with knowledge. Fall in love with stories. Fall in love with history. Fall in love with everything your brain is just waiting to know.
42. Follow your dreams. Go for the job you know will awaken the best parts of who you are.
43. Your passion is a lifelong romance you will always need to strive for. It can be the kind of lover that brings you joy and fulfillment with every passing day.
44. Accept yourself. Be proud. Be confident. Be strong.
45. You can fall in love with yourself every day too. You can look in the mirror and know that in your heart you are radiating love onto this world. You can carry with you the ability to achieve extraordinary greatness. You just have to be open to it, because the choice is yours.
So go, my friend, and fall in love with this life.
For more, check out my blog at SerendipityandCreativity.com
Just had to share these … the feelings, thoughts and memories words can evoke simply amaze me….
2. “In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.”
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
3. “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”
4. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
6. “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed
7. “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
8. “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
10. “‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”
—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
11. “The curves of your lips rewrite history.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
12. “A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
14. “As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: a) Anything can happen to anyone. and b) It is best to be prepared.”
—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
15. “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”
—W. H. Auden, “The More Loving One”
16. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
18. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet
19. “America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”
—Allen Ginsburg, “America”
20. “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.”
—W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
22. “At the still point, there the dance is.”
—T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”
23. “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
—Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
24. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
26. “The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.”
—Toni Morrison, Beloved
27. “How wild it was, to let it be.”
—Cheryl Strayed, Wild
28. “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
30. “She was lost in her longing to understand.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
31. “She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
—Kate Chopin, “The Awakening”
32. “We cross our bridges as we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.”
—Tom Stoppard, Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead
34. “The half life of love is forever.”
—Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her
35. “I sing myself and celebrate myself.”
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
36. “There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
—Bram Stroker, Dracula
37. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
38. “I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”
—Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”
39. “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”
—Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre
41. “I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”
—W. B. Yeats, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”
42. “It frightened him to think what must have gone to the making of her eyes.”
—Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
43. “For poems are like rainbows; they escape you quickly.”
—Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
45. “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
—Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
46. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
47. “Journeys end in lovers meeting.”
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
49. “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
50. “One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices