To commemorate cancer awareness month, Manenberg High School hosted a cancer awareness day last Thursday, where they honoured one of their Grade 8 pupils who was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Doctors discovered a tumour in Aneeka Herold’s brain in September last year.
Her mother, Zayaan Herold, noticed that there was something wrong when Aneeka’s speech began to slur. She took Aneeka to a doctor in Heideveld, where she was referred to a day hospital.
At the hospital, doctors told Ms Herold that her daughter was experiencing normal “growing pains” and she was sent home.
A week later, the pain still persisted and doctors gave her a referral letter for the Red Cross Children’s War Memorial Hospital.
Two weeks later, Aneeka went to Groote Schuur Hospital for a scan and doctors discovered a tumour on her brain.
In February this year, Aneeka underwent radiation treatment to reduce the size of the tumour so doctors could operate, but before the operation took place, it was discovered that the tumour had grown bigger, covering a large part of Aneeka’s brain, meaning that surgery was no longer an option.
In August, she lost the feeling in her left leg and later that month in her right leg, and was confined to a wheelchair.
Three weeks ago Aneeka went for a check-up where doctors told her that there was nothing more they could do for her.
At the event last week, Aneeka’s best friend Nurah Hendricks, spoke about their friendship.
“I met Aneeka at her house for the first time when my uncle introduced me to her.
“We visited each other all the time. Aneeka is very kind-hearted and always likes to share. We were separated in Grade 5 but reunited in the same class in Grade 7 again. In the middle of the year, Aneeka stayed absent a lot and I went to her mother and asked her what was wrong with Aneeka. Her mother said she was tired all the time. She went for X-rays and they discovered the tumour. I was so sad, but I decided that I need to be there for her. My friends and myself then decided to visit Aneeka,” said Nurah.
Ms Herold’s advice was that people should always keep track of their health.
“Radiation treatment can help or can’t, but it is important to get checked out,” said Ms Herold.
The programme also included a speech by Ruth Smith, one of the parents who had lost her child to cancer.
Selina, Ms Smith’s daughter, was seven years old at the time.
In 2012, over the Easter weekend, Selina’s leg started swelling.
The following Monday, Ms Smith took her to the hospital and doctors said there was nothing wrong with her leg and wrapped a bandage around it.
Ms Smith did not go home because she believed that something was wrong.
She stayed until the night shift nurses came and asked them to do an X-ray to put her mind at ease.
She was then given a referral letter to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, where doctors discovered the cancer.
The following week she was sent to Maitland Cottage Home for surgery and stayed in hospital for a month.
Selina underwent chemotherapy for two and a half months.
Ms Smith described how she slept at the hospital during that time.
“I only came home weekends. The chemotherapy gave Selina different moods every day.
“There were days where she refused to go for chemo and I had to beg her to go. I asked God for strength to get me through it,” said Ms Smith.
In 2014, Selina’s cancer came back, in other parts of her body. She told Ms Smith that she did not want more operations and wanted to be put in a wheelchair.
Doctors were able to remove 99 percent of the tumour in her spine but could not remove the remaining 1 percent.
Ms Smith said that Selina was okay for a while but one day she couldn’t breathe properly and had water on her lungs. Doctors drained her lungs and gave her a 50 percent chance of survival.
Selina decided that she did not want any further operations or treatment.
“On Sunday June 28, 2015, Selina struggled with her breathing again and I said let’s go to the hospital for oxygen but she said no,” said Ms Smith.
She passed away the following day.
Ms Smith that her daughter had a place in many people’s hearts, both old and young.
She said that people should look after themselves.
“Look after your body, it is a temple from God for you to look after. I miss her a lot, and I thank God every day for being on my side,” Ms Smith added.
Ms Smith said she would like to thank Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s oncology unit for everything they did for her daughter.