Oh what a day!

Some days you need to wake up with a sense of humour, otherwise the day is going to get to you.  This is such a day.

I need to clear out my office at UCT (University of Cape Town) – even though I didn’t spend a single day at work this year my office remained mine since I was on unpaid leave.  So yesterday I went and bought an external hard drive to dump everything on my computer onto and this morning I grabbed some boxes and hit the road.

We live in Brackenfell and UCT is built against Table Mountain.  See – ri – ass.  I worked at the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and that building is built in the second highest row against the mountain.  I am sure I will get the details wrong, but the gist of the story is that Cecil John Rhodes, the diamond king of South Africa, owned most (all?) of Table Mountain and left it to the people of South Africa.  He donated the land that UCT is built on as well.  But there were provisions.  Among these were that no building may be built above a certain height, otherwise it will revert to the Rhodes Foundation.  Because of this you will find that the upmost buildings on the Upper Campus of UCT (that lies against the mountain) are all conspicuously of the same height – if any building exceeds the proclaimed height above sea level the whole of UCT’s land will become the property of the Foundation.  As far as I know that proviso stands for all the Table Mountain land that he donated.  But like I said, I am sure I got the details wrong.  I’ve never been much of a historian.

Back to today.  It is 37km from our house to UCT.  And every one of those kilometers groans under peak traffic.  Here is a Google Earth view of the whole route.  We live on the right (huis = home) and UCT is on the left.  This photo shows the largest part of the Cape Peninsula, ie Cape Town.

The white line measures 5km.  The cooling towers are a landmark in Cape Town.  Everyone knows about the cooling towers.

Here is a closer look.

This morning I drove all the way to the cooling towers before I remembered that I left my office keys at home.  So I had to turn back.  If I’d known what the rest of the trip would hold I would’ve stayed at home after that!

My office is at the back of another office, if that makes any sense.  The first bit is more open to everyone, but mine is private.  When I got to work the door to the outer office wouldn’t open.  Someone locked it with the Yale lock that is never used.  And like my luck would have it there wasn’t a spare available anywhere.  Which is a bit of a problem since spares to all the locks in the building are kept in an emergency box for … wait for it … emergencies!

So after spending an hour trying to find a key I returned home having done nothing of what I planned to do.  I did spend my time in the car listening to the Susan Boyle CD – what an experience!  That, if nothing else, almost made the day worth while.

It seems amazing that I drove that road every day for 7 years.  That is a very long time, especially considering that I am 34 years old.  Percentage wise I spent close to 20% of my life at UCT.  Now that is just plain scary.

365 days

What does one say when commemorating a cancer diagnosis?  Calling it an anniversary makes it sound like something to celebrate.  Who knows? And then, who cares?

Exactly 365 days ago, at 16:00 on Christmas Eve 2008, we were told that Boeta had cancer.  My memory of that day is crystal clear on some points and completely missing on some others.

I recall very clearly that we were sitting in the waiting area of the radiologists in Panorama MC (Durbanville MC doesn’t do CTs under general anaesthetic).  I know that Boeta played with large building blocks that they have there.  I remember that the anaethetist appeared to be very comfortable around children (little did I know that Elizna’s cell number would be on my phone before long).  I know that Wouter and I were sitting outside the CT scanner on adjacent chairs and that we didn’t talk a lot.  I know that I sent a message to Sandi, telling her that we are waiting and asking her to post on BN.  I remember walking up and down, and I remember asking the CT technician if he saw something and him telling me that they will have to analyse it first.  He told me later that it was very obvious and that he was grateful that he wouldn’t have to break the news to us.

I remember Elizna fussing around Boeta when they were done and he was waking up.  She asked me what symptoms he had and wished us luck.  I thought she a nice person.  I only realised later that she knew what was happening and what we were up against.

I remember that Boeta was very fussy on our way back to Durbanville MC.  We were driving in my car, a red Mercedes A160 that Boeta called (and still calls) Lightning McQueen (after the movie Cars).  I don’t recall walking into the hospital. 

What I remember the clearest is Etienne Bruwer walking into our room and saying “Dis slegte nuus” (It is bad news).  The next while I can remember the images of, but not the words.  Does that make sense?  I know Wouter and Etienne were talking.  Etienne was standing with his back to the door, I stood facing him and Wouter stood on my right.  Boeta was lying in bed watching Noddy.  I can’t recall being told it was cancer.  I can’t recall anything else of what Etienne said.  But I clearly remember him telling us that he just had to check something.  He stood across the hall with his back to us, apparently fussing with some papers but obviously trying to get his composure back.  Then he came back and handed us an envelope with the name of the oncologist we had to go and see the next day at 09:00.  Christmas Day.  My 33rd birthday.  I saw that he wrote “Cristina Stefan” and thought he misspelled her name.

I know that I spoke to Tatiana soon after hearing.  I stood in the room opposite Boeta’s and the two of us cried over the phone.  I know that I sent a message to my parents, just saying “Dit is kanker” (It is cancer).  I must’ve told Neels and Verna too, because I remember them arriving, looking as shell-shocked as we felt.

I know Wouter drove Boeta to my parents’ house and I drove on my own.  I know I was crying all the way.  I don’t recall anything about arriving at my parents’.  I do remember that Boeta was so very tired.  Within a day he went from apparently healthy to obviously sick.  He looked like a cancer patient and our hearts were in pieces.  For months he looked forward to Santa bringing him a certain Lightning McQueen car.  It was the first year that he had some understanding of Christmas and we had to fake good cheer and do the Christmas / gifts / smile thing.  He was so exhausted that he opened the car and then sat on a chair holding it.  He didn’t even shake it once to hear it say “Speed.  I am speed”.

At some stage during the day Wouter’s parents and his brother arrived.  I am very vague on that.  I know they were there but I can’t remember their arrival, what they said or did, or anything else.  They drove back to Pringle Bay (where we were supposed to be for Christmas) later, to where the rest of the family were waiting.  My mom says she didn’t realise how bad it was until Japie (Wouter’s brother and a doctor) picked up the envelope with the CT photos, slid the photo sheet out and almost immediately pushed it back.  It was that obvious to a trained eye.

I do recall searching for Wouter all the time – he would go looking for solitude and I would find him in the quietest spot.  I sat next to him and we didn’t speak, except for Wouter looking at me fiercely and declaring that we would get through this.

I cried so much that day.

We slept at my parents’ that night.  They realised that it would be better for us to be looked after.  Woutertjie slept on a floor bed next to us.  I lay awake most of the night staring at his silhouette in the darkness, crying and praying like never before in my life.  And I remember waking up in the night to hear Wouter sob next to me. 

If you told me  on the 24th of December 2008 that in 365 days’ time I would consider the past year as the most blessed year of our lives I probably definitely would’ve slapped you until you sobered up.  And yet here we are, and I do. 

This year has taught us to live in total dependence on God.  It taught us that everything is secondary to family and love and health and good friends.  It has shown us that our friends are gifts from heaven.  It reminded us to be utterly humble and eternally grateful for the Blessings that are bestowed upon us.  Through the grace of God our marriage came through this stronger.  Our children are healthy, Woutertjie has been free of cancer for the past 8 months and they adore each other. 

What more could we ever ask for?

Today was quite hard on me.  I kept having flash backs.  But as usual God gets His message across if one just keeps quiet long enough to listen.  I am leaving you with my lesson for today.  Don’t get hung up on the past.  Reach for what lies ahead.

… Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.    –    Philippians 3:13-14

23 December 2008

Today a year ago Wouter and I went to the gym for an early morning workout before leaving to go to his parents in Pringle Bay.  The kids went with.  Boeta was 3 years old and Carien was 1.  Lynn, the personal trainer, gave me a sparkly tea cup with “Drama Queen” written across it.  Boeta was nauseous although he didn’t vomit and I decided to take him to the GP before we left just in case he caught the gastro that was doing the rounds.

Dr Kuhn felt Boeta’s tummy and called his partner who did the same.  He then phoned Dr Etienne Bruwer (paediatrician) at Durbanville MediClinic and made an appointment for the afternoon.  Etienne took one look and sent Boeta for a sonar, that showed a “mass behind the liver”.  If we were medically trained we would’ve realised right there that it was cancer.  All the medical staff did.  Ettienne asked for a CT scan but Boeta responded badly to the Dormicum and they decided to do it the next day under general anaesthetic.

Wouter and Boeta spent the night in hospital.  Boeta had his second* ever drip inserted and thought lying in bed watching movies was a fabulous way of spending time.  I was completely relaxed and actually a bit amused by how overboard they were going.  I mean really.  Here is a perfectly healthy child with a bit of a tummy bug.  How bad could it be?

.

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Flash forward.  23 December 2009.

I spoke to Enrico’s mom today.  I told you that he has was clear of neuroblastoma and then that he relapsed.  And I told you that he was responding well to treatment. 

Johanetta says they did a sonar on Enrico and the new tumour hasn’t just shrunk, it is GONE.  There is no trace of it.  Praise our Lord of miracles and healing! 

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*His first drip was when he was 5 weeks old and started dehydrating after catching some tummy bug.   We stayed in Panorama’s paediatrics ward for one night.

Things you should never do

In October last year I decided to take charge of my health and weight and everything else*.  I joined the gym, but knowing myself I realised that I would never go if there wasn’t something or someone forcing me to go.  So I signed up with a personal trainer.  I’m still trying to figure out why I hate myself that much.  Because getting involved with a PT spells pain.  Lots of it.

Case in point.  I was supposed to see Lynn tomorrow at 09:00.  Earlier tonight my phone beeped.

Lynn:  Change of plan.  See you at 08:00 tomorrow.

S: <sticking out my tongue at you>

Lynn:  I’ll sort you out tomorrow. 😉

I am petrified.  Thou shalt never ever ever backchat thy personal trainer.  Never.  It leads to sweat and pain and torture.  Ouch in advance.

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*Since 2009 blind-sided us in a big way and I ended up sitting in hospital all the time, my plan didn’t work out as well as I thought it would.

Originally my aim was to loose weight during 2009.

That didn’t happen so I reset my goal.

Plan B was that I wouldn’t gain weight during 2009.

That one didn’t stand the test of time either.  So I decided to set achievable goals. 

My final goal for 2009 is to weigh less than 300kg by the end of the year.  So far I am doing well.  *evil grin*

Yap me! Yap me!!

Yes, Carien started committing* English as well.  The up side is that she is only 2 years and 4 months and is already starting the journey toward bilingualism.  The down side?  She is learning from Woutertjie who, at 4 years and 8 months, learned English phonetically and sports a mixed American (Mickey Mouse), British (Thomas the Tank Engine) and Welsh (Fireman Sam) accent.  I am going to be kind and call it an interesting situation. 

At this exact point in time (17:44 on Saturday the 19th of December, 2009) the two of them are wrestling on top of Wouter and Carien is calling “yap me, yap me” (help me, help me) but isn’t actually calling for help.  I’m not sure what she wants – but I don’t think she knows either. 

I am so proud of our little lady.  She is 99% potty trained and she did most of it by herself.  I’d say my mom did 49% of the work and Carien did 50%.  I didn’t do anything.  I was in hospital when all of this happened.  But Carien was ready and my mom went for it.

After the wrestling she announced that she had to go and wee, went to the bathroom and did her thing all by herself.  And then she went to her room and got a clean pair of trousers even though her clothes were still clean.  Not panties though.  Go figure.

Woutertjie still doesn’t dress himself if he doesn’t absolutely have to.  We dress him, undress him and wipe his bum.  He doesn’t even comb his own hair.  Which makes it a good thing that he doesn’t have any, né?  (né is an Afrikaans word meaning “right” – pronounced neh)

Carien on the other hand wants to do everything by herself.  She wants to pick her own clothes and put it on.  She wants to comb her own hair and expects everyone to lie and tell her that it looks beautiful.  And we do. 

I can’t believe how much two children with the same parents and raised in the same home can be different from each other.  Woutertjie rarely cries (except when his Hb is low – then all bets are off) whereas Carien opens the waterworks for any and all reasons.  And usually for no reason.  She is such a little madam.

And she is busy putting on make-up using white board marker.  Excuse me please.  I have rescuing to do…

*What she does to the language can’t be considered “speaking” by anyone.  She makes a lost Chinese tourist with a phrase book seem a master of the Queen’s language.

Time out

I’ve been trying since Saturday to write an update about the chemo party but I just can’t.  I am tired.  So very tired.  So I am going to stop feeling guilty and just let it go for a couple of days.  I promise I will update about it soon.

Tomorrow Debbie is working her last day at Panorama.  They are moving to Kirkwood, right at the other end of the country.  My heart is broken.  Debbie is one of a kind.  She is a mother to all the children in her care.  She started working with Woutertjie on the 26th of December 2008.  She’s been with us all the way through the good and the bad.  She laughed with me, she cried with me.  She is a friend to me.  And I will miss her so much.

Why does everything always happen at the same time???

Today my father turns 61 – happy happy!  May it be a wonderful year!

 I had my end-of-year function (I was invited even though I didn’t spend a single day at work this year – I was on the books so I counted 😉 ).  Lunch at the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay.  Tonight we had Wouter’s Christmas function.  A family braai at Pearl Valley near Franschhoek.  I traveled a lot today.

Tomorrow is the chemo party.  We are inviting all the chemo kids and their families as well as the nurses, doctors, dietician, our CANSA (Cancer Association) volunteers and their families.  About 70 people in total.  And Deirdre (Ethan’s mom) and I only decided to arrange the party 10 days ago.  We should really start thinking before we decide to do things.  And we should really keep our mouths shut in the 5 minutes following our rash decisions.  But us being us, we already invited 80% of our guests by that time…  *shakes head*

Added to the short notice woe, Deirdre had her wisdom teeth removed last week but following complications she had to have a second operation yesterday.  My partner in hare-brained ideas is out of action.  On the plus side, without us egging each other on we may just manage to pull the party off.  I will let you know what happened.  But you know that, right?