Wynand – a Survivor of Childhood Cancer
My name is Wynand van der Westhuizen. I was diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoma at the age of 9 on New Year’s Eve, 2000. The cancer had spread throughout my body and bone marrow and I had to receive very intensive chemotherapy. I had a few courses that made me lose my hair three times. My whole family was shocked, not knowing what to expect. For a year I was in and out of the hospital. The treatment, side effects, infections, uncertainty and everything else was just horrible! Photo right: How I look today.
It was such a difficult year for our family and involuntarily the questions came up. I asked myself over and over “Why?” Why did this happen to me? Do I deserve this? And eventually I got my answer in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
The one setback after the other followed. I got Pneumonia and then Meningitis, I battled with an uncommon seudomonae infection that made me severely ill, to such an extent that I was admitted into intensive care. Then I battled with a painful staphylococcus in my eye and jaw. My immune system was so low that every infection made its’ mark on me. Day after day, hour after hour my parents were praying at my bedside. I overcame the crises as they came and everytime we just thanked the Lord. Photo left: Me undergoing treatment as a child.
When it’s time to go home the bustling life outside just swallows you in again, until the next treatment or crisis. The worst shock for us came at the end of January 2001, when my mom was suddenly diagnosed with Thyroid cancer – according to the doctor it was stress related. The cancer had spread throughout her body and she passed away after four months in June 2001. I was still on oral treatment and not yet out of danger. My mother was my strength and motivater – always providing for my needs and ready to encourage me. My dad suddenly had to fulfill two roles. He did a brilliant job, but as if all the shocks weren’t enough, he died three years later in a car accident in 2004, when I was in grade 7.
Today I am cancer – free. Although nobody will fill my parents’ place in my heart, I am grateful to people in my life that care. I currently live with my Godmother and I just finished my first year studies in Nature Conservation. I wish to say to every newly diagnosed patient that they should hang onto HOPE and FAITH. KEEP ON BELIEVING and NEVER STOP FIGHTING. There is life after cancer. Always dream about a better tomorrow. It will happen sooner than you think!