‘Having my mom’s support is what kept me feeling positive’
Kerry abrahams, 44, is a personal assistant and lives in Kommetjie with her husband Greg, and sons cody, 13, and christopher, 11. When she was diagnosed with cancer, her mother Gael was a huge support. In March 2011, after a stressful week away for work, I returned home more tired than usual. When the fatigue didn’t go away I suspected it might be malaria from a recent trip to Zambia. A visit to casualty in Joburg, where we lived at the time, proved otherwise. Right there and then, the doctor on duty referred me to a haematologist at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. I was transferred immediately by ambulance – it happened so quickly I didn’t even have a chance to call my family. After a procedure that involved taking a tissue sample from my bones, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
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I was terrified and the only thing I could think of was how my boys would cope without me. tHe JOurney I began chemotherapy soon after my diagnosis and stayed in hospital – in an isolation ward – for seven weeks because my immune system was severely compromised. I wasn’t allowed many visitors and I couldn’t even see my children. During that unpredictable time, my mom, who also lived in Joburg, stepped in to take care of them. Although I initially started getting better, my doctor said I’d need a bone marrow transplant.
I was lucky to find a donor quickly, but I needed to have the transplant in Cape Town. I’d be away from home for three months but my mom didn’t think twice: she was coming with me. Following a week of chemo, I had the transplant. My mom was there for me day and night. She didn’t have to say or do anything; just having her close by lifted my spirit. It was tough being separated from Greg, my sons and my dad, who visited when they could.
It was my mom’s constant presence in hospital that kept me positive. I’ve now been cancer-free for seven years. I know it was extremely difficult for my mom, who had been through cancer herself, to see me sick. But she’s one of the strongest people I know and I could draw on that strength when I needed it most. Gael van Vuuren, 68, is retired and lives with her husband Barry in Kommetjie. Watching Kerry go through chemo and the bone marrow transplant was probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do.
There was no question of me leaving Joburg to go to Cape Town to be with her, and I never doubted she’d come out the other side of this. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a few years before Kerry’s diagnosis, and she was by my side cheering me on, so I’m grateful to have been able to do the same for her.
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