By Shannon Wilson
“My mum died of it,” said Cam du Plessis.
“I’m still fighting,” said Anne Warren.
James Hoyle stated, “My wife, son, mother and brother died of it and now I have it.”
“My friend has it,” said Brenda Cadle.
“Horrible. I think cancer is simply a horrible disease,” said Rhodes student Warwick Hattingh.
The word cancer holds a different meaning for each person. So then what does the word cancer mean to me?
It is nine on Saturday morning and I am standing outside Pick n’ Pay with the Victoria Primary School girls for the annual Cansa Shavathon. It’s sunny and warm in Grahamstown, the perfect Eastern Cape summer’s day. Many of the students are dressed for the hot weather; the girls in sundresses with their bikini ties showing and the guys in slops and vests. A couple of them head inside to grab some food for their trips to Kenton-on-Sea or Port Alfred. Pick n’ Pay is as busy as always.
Cancer survivor Anne Warren was diagnosed in September 2012 with Multiple Myeloma -bone marrow cancer but is now in remission. Although she has shaved her hair twice before, this time she decided to go with some colour, “just to celebrate life!”
Warren hopes that the money donated on Saturday will help find a cure so that adults, and more especially children, who have not yet lived their lives can survive the disease. The Cansa organization uses the money to provide support for those with cancer and those affected by it. It enables more research to be done and educates the public on the disease.
Having survived cancer a number of times, James Hoyle waits in line to donate to the Cansa Shavathon. Hoyle has had his hair shaved off and his head spray painted to show his extreme support for the cause. The reason for this is that Hoyle has lost his mother, his brother, his wife and his son to the disease and now he has it too. However, he is still fighting. He sits chatting to me with a big smile on his face while he has his hair shaved.
“You have the right bone structure to have your head shaved.” I turned my head to where her voice was coming from. “Me?” I asked. “Yes, you should do it. Shave it all off.” I laughed. Her name was Cam du Plessis, she lost her mother to cancer and now her friend in Cape Town is battling with the disease. Du Plessis had all her hair shaved off to honour her mother and then to show support for her friend who is still fighting the disease. She noted that it was a radical change but she was happy to embrace it since hair always grows back.
The Victoria Primary School Girls Early Act society raised R8 700 last year and were hoping to raise R10 000 this year. They exceeded their expectations making as much as R12 000 by the time I saw them. However, the numbers have not yet been finalized.
The Cansa Shavathon was conducted on 6 March both at their school and at Pick n’ Pay. Anita Sonne, who helped the girls run the desk on Saturday, said that many of the girls volunteered to help and she is pleased with the awareness being raised.
So what does the word cancer mean to me? It makes me think of people.. It reminds me of my Godmother who passed away as a result of breast cancer. My aunt, and my granddad. It reminds me of my brother’s best friend. And so I took du Plessis’ advice and I had a little of my hair shaved off.
There are more and more people that are being affected by this disease. Over 100 000 people are diagnosed per year in South Africa with cancer. This event was a great way to bring the community together and support those still fighting their battle.