Cancer is not only a painful and terrifying journey for the patient but also an exhausting one for the caregiver.
Two years ago Shakiera Less lost her nephew Faheem Abrahams to bone cancer when he was just 16 years old. Ms Less, her mother, and sisters all took care of him but she was responsible for motivating him and encouraging him to stay positive.
Ever since Faheem’s death, Ms Less and her family and friends have supported the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Relay for Life event to honour those who have passed away from cancer, and to support those in remission as well as their family members. This year the CANSA Relay for Life Athlone has chosen “The Power of Purple” as the theme as they celebrate their 10th relay.
The 12-hour relay will be held on Friday March 16, from 6pm, until Saturday March 17, at 6am, at the Vangate Sports Complex.
Faheem was diagnosed with the disease on March 30 2015 at the age of 14.
“He kept questioning why that was happening to him,” Ms Less said.
Towards the end of April he underwent chemotherapy. He suffered hair loss and also lost 18 kilos. The chemotherapy lasted until July that year.
“It was emotionally draining. I had to stay motivated and couldn’t feel down because I had to keep him going. He remained positive and we were also positive,” said Ms Less.
In August that year doctors removed part of his shoulder blade and half of the bone in his right arm as the cancer had damaged the bone.
In January 2016 he was declared cancer free and was in remission but in August that year cancer was found in his lungs.
“There were tumours growing on the inside of his lungs and on August 29 the doctor called to say that the chemo had not helped and that the tumours had increased. They said that he had three months left to live and he passed away on November 21,” said Ms Less.
She said that the family still misses Faheem a lot and will always remember his positive spirit.
“He never showed us when he had any pain, he was always so positive and very strong. He was a loving boy with a beautiful smile,” she said.
Her advice to others caregivers is to remain positive as it will keep the patient going.
“Have lots of patience. Every day is different for them, and we can never know how much pain they are in,” she added.
The programme for the Relay for Life event will include various laps around a 400m track to highlight the plight of cancer survivors, caregivers and raise awareness on the different types of cancer.
One of the conditions of the event is that at least one person on the team must be on the track at all times – signalling that cancer never sleeps.
There will also be ongoing entertainment with various festivities for children.
Teams should come prepared with warm clothes, water bottles, warm food, coffee and their luminaria bags.
The luminaria bag is a white paper bag filled with sand and a candle, which is lit on the Friday evening when the lights are switched off. All the bags are placed around the edge of the track and once the lights go off, teams walk a silent lap in honour of all those lost to the disease.
Each 15-member team must pay a registration fee of R1 650, which is R110 a person.
For more information, contact Karen Jansen on 072 400 9085 via WhatsApp or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your team or to register as a survivor.