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The loved ones of cancer patients – Runners Against Cancer

Pretoria News Feb 2016 Runners Against Cancer familyPretoria News 2016-02-05 – Jacques Slabber remembers the day clearly. He was driving in Johannesburg when he received a call from a consultant from his medical aid scheme.  “The person said they just called to check up on me… on how I was doing through it all… and I pulled over the car and cried.”

Jacques’ wife, Julia, 44, had been diagnosed with stage three Triple Negative Breast Cancer in December 2013, and up until that moment after finding out about her diagnosis, he had been on autopilot – being supportive to his wife, taking care of their two children and maintaining focus and productivity at work as an IT professional.

“Cancer is (not only) a disease for the victim but also for the partner… it’s a very selfish disease for the partner. It is scary and it is lonely,” the 45-year-old said yesterday.

While the focus is largely on the victims and survivors of cancer, little attention is paid to their families whose lives have to adjust to the upheaval the disease causes.

“It is very scary”, Jacques continued. “Within two weeks of chemo, Julia had gone very pale, thin and gaunt. It’s scary for a child as well, when your parent looks like a ghost…”

Julia said: “My husband has been really great.. he’s become the jack of all trades. He can cook, he can clean, he makes lunchboxes.. I’ve been really lucky. There were some young girls in the hospital wards whose boyfriends left them when it got too much. I think that’s why Jacques does what he does… he has seen the loneliness. He has seen women drive themselves to chemo and drive themselves home”.

Jacques is a cancer survivor himself, after he discovered he had a rare form of bone cancer that was treated in his early teenage years.  He credits that experience with making him helpful, supportive and focused during his wife’s two-and-a-half year battle.

Julia said her biggest message to women was to keep their regular appointments for mammograms, as she regrets having missed her checkup due to her busy work schedule and believes the cancer could have been caught sooner.

Jacques said following his encounter with other victims and their families at the oncology wards, he had since started a running group – Runners Against Cancer – which has 30 runners set to to take part in the Two Oceans Marathon next month. The group has already raised R270 000 in donations.

The aim is to raise R1 million and all proceeds will go to CANSA.  (See how donations help CANSA fight cancer.)  Read more about CANSA’s new CANSA Caring for the Carers Facebook group – for caregivers of cancer Survivors (patients) who wish to share their story and encourage each other.




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