Internationally-known swimmer Romina Armellini fought and won a sensational victory over cancer. Born in Johannesburg of Italian parents, Romina started collecting swimming trophies from the age of eight and by 17 had achieved a global ranking of second in her event age group.
At the age of six Kamvelihle “Kamva” Kalashe was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumour and had to have his left kidney removed. Around that time his mother passed away and the combination of losing a beloved parent whilst facing cancer was enormously challenging. CHOC East London helped Kamva through this time. Sadly he passed away earlier this year.
I live in the small town called Queenstown and I’m doing grade 9 at Queenstown Girls High School. In 2011 I was diagnosed with soft part sarcoma, which is a very rate type of soft tissue sarcoma. At that time I was 11 years old and knew nothing about life in hospital, but my family gave me full support. I had to accept that I had cancer. To me, cancer sounded like an illness for the old, for me to be diagnosed with it was such a shock.
Lying in bed one day I looked at my life and realised that it was perfect. I had a beautiful home, a good job that I enjoyed, my husband was employed, and we had two perfect children – our firstborn Austin and his sister Lisa.
Then it all changed... my bubble burst.
Austin’ s illness came out of the blue. Neither of my children had been sickly – not even one day of ill health or even the need for a tablet between them. The only time they went to the clinic was for check-ups.
“I was left alone with Katie and two nurses, who were obsessively checking my daughter’s vital signs. ‘Mommy, I’m cold,’ whispered Caitlyn. The next thing I knew, I was being hurried out of the room as ICU staff came running in. That’s when I realised that the heart monitors were screeching out a single tone. Caitlyn had flatlined.
Numb with shock, I managed to find Brett. We both stood silently waiting outside the emergency room doors. I prayed for good news. Six very long minutes later, we were ushered back into the room. They had managed to save her, but she was in desperate need of blood. Caitlyn was moved to the I.C.U ward and connected up to the bags containing the vital, life-giving red liquid. Two pints later, we watched in awe as the colour returned to her lips and her freckles slowly started to re-appear.”
Board member and former chair Mzwandile Khanya is a bereaved father, who was inspired to get involved with CHOC after his daughter passed away. He shares his story with us.
Like most families, the Khanyas never dreamed they would ever have to face the reality of childhood cancer. Throughout her childhood Nomathasanqa Khanya, or Thami as her friends caller her, had been a strong and healthy child, with a maturity beyond her years. Her name even meant the “lucky one” in Xhosa.
But then, in 2004, at age 10, Thami suddenly started to have problems with her vision and had to move to the front of the class to see the blackboard. She had her eyes checked and was told she needed glasses. When she returned to receive her lenses, the optometrist was shocked to see that in a week her eyes had deteriorated further and the lens prescription had to be adjusted.