Celebrating the daily struggle of cancer survivors

15 January 2017 - 02:00 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER
Unicka Bothma, 12, wants to study medicine so that she can help children beat cancer.
Unicka Bothma, 12, wants to study medicine so that she can help children beat cancer.
Image: Supplied

Thando Mandlazi dreams of becoming a doctor so that she can help children battling life-threatening diseases.

Thando, now a Grade 5 pupil at Sunnyridge Primary School in Germiston, was diagnosed with muscle cancer when she was 10 months old and had to endure intense chemotherapy and radiation that scorched her and left her scarred and in excruciating pain.

Her journey has been one of suffering and triumph.

Today Thando's cancer is in remission and she is one of 12 cancer survivors who feature in the poignant Moments in Time 2017 calendar - a fundraising project that assists poor people living with cancer.

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Each page of the calendar - an initiative of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals - features pictures of patients who have appeared in previous editions of the calendar, with an update on their health. The proceeds from the sale of the calendar - which costs R150 - are used to help cancer patients who can't afford medical aid.

Shivani Baldeo of Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals said about 500 copies of the 2017 calendar had been printed. The 10th edition of the calendar comes after a five-year hiatus.

Although several of the featured cancer patients continue to battle their illnesses, there have been many victories over the disease, including that of Thando, 10, who, after three years of treatment, was given a clean bill of health.

Alongside her baby picture from 2010 is an image of a smiling Thando dressed in a traditional outfit.

"I want to tell people about my life story. I feel confident I can help people. I want to give to others what was given to me during my sick days," said Thando.

"No matter what happens around you, always remind yourself that you are a survivor ... If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it."

Adrienne Murray, 12, of Worcester, has one eye and is still living with cancer. Her touching story and pictures feature in the calendar.

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Adrienne was diagnosed with eye cancer when she was 23 months old. Her right eye had to be removed and she underwent intense chemotherapy.

She first appeared in the calendar in 2010 as a sprightly five-year-old.

Before she lost her sight - she has 5% vision in her remaining eye - her parents gave her every experience they could afford, from visiting game parks to seaside holidays.

"Adrienne is an amazing little girl. She lives with intense pain but she continues to embrace life. She climbs trees, swims, and plays the piano and blind cricket," said her father, Marius.

And she is one of the top achievers in her class.

"I am excited to be part of this project because I can do my little bit to help people who can't afford cancer treatment.

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"I don't miss anything about not being able to see. My mom, dad and sister are my eyes ... they describe everything to me," she said.

Unicka Bothma, 12, beat neuroblastoma, a nerve cancer.

A few months after she was diagnosed in 2005, her father was killed in a car crash.

"Those were such dark days for us. Unicka was so sick and I had to cope with my husband's death. But somehow, with the support of family and friends, we made it through with treatment and prayer," said her mother, Marietjie.

Unicka first appeared in the calendar as a fragile-looking 15-month-old.

"It's been a tough journey. But I'm here. I just want to tell people with cancer to stay positive.

"I want to study medicine because I know I can help children like me. I can give them information first-hand about what it is to beat cancer."

govendersu@sundaytimes.co.za

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