Childhood cancer disrupts family
“The most common reaction from parents whose child has been diagnosed with cancer is generally disbelief, shock and desperation,” says Debbie Kleineberg, CHOC Childhood Foundation Regional manager.
Lizelle Rudman’s son, Godfrey, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at the age of 11. The family had to move from their Fort Beaufort home to be closer to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town where they spent three and a half months. Godfrey’s 13- year-old sister had to be left behind with her grandmother.
“Our daughter was torn apart by his illness; she felt unwanted due to the fact that we were separated for so long. She eventually understood why we had to leave her for that period,” said Rudman.
Rudman recalls how her son hugged her at the time in his little arms and said, ‘Moenie huil nie Mamma, ek is mos nie siek nie (Don’t cry Mom, I am not sick)’.
As we close off Childhood cancer month, we celebrate institutions such as CHOC that offers a wide range of support services to cancer patients and their families such as the Rudmans. The services include counselling, emotional support, accommodation close to treatment centres, transport to and from treatment centres, support groups and interactive ward activities.
Godfrey Rudman, now 22, reminisces about a PlayStation 3 with two games that CHOC bought him in the hospital at the beginning of his treatment. “I was very excited to play my games. One night while I was playing, I fell asleep and my heart stopped and my body started shaking. My father carried me for almost four kilometres in his arms and ran to the hospital where I was resuscitated three times,” recalls Rudman.
He said that his cancer journey has taught him that with support and a positive mind-set, anything is possible and this, in turn, has made him appreciate life. He is back in Fort Beaufort with his family after he was cleared of cancer in 2013. He recently qualified as a chef.
Kleineberg says CHOC exists to serve and support these children, parents, families and communities through their cancer journey to keep hope alive.