On Saturday 9 December 2017 we hosted our 9th annual family day event for the Western Cape families who have children diagnosed with cancer that we know; our 7th under the My Child Has Cancer Trust banner.
If you know us, you will know that we categorise our beneficiaries as:
a) Newly diagnosed and relapsed children and their immediate family
a) In-Treatment children and their immediate family
c) Children who are surviving or in remission and their immediate family
d) Children who have died and their immediate family. We call these “Angel Families”
We are there for every turn in the road, from the dreadful side-effects of chemotherapy, to remission or relapse, and the grief of losing a child. We also understand that the challenges do not end when the patient goes into remission or becomes an angel.
When we arrived at Leeuwenhof the wind was howling so much that we were unable to put out any parasols, gazebos and children’s games. At one point we were concerned about whether the bedouin tent, tables and chairs would be a safety risk or not. As the wind threatened to cause more havoc we turned to the only place we could think of for help….prayer. Together we formed a circle, held hands and prayed for a day where our families could reconnect, relax and be spoilt without the dangers that threatened to destroy it.
As the families started to arrive you could hear the squeals of excitement echo through the wind as we shared hugs and laughter. Our apology for the wind seemed to fall on deaf ears as we heard responses such as “It’s just wind … we have worse problems than this”, “We’ve had 6 great weather years, what’s a little wind. Every day we battle to get our kids up. This is one day of the year where they’re up before we are. Let’s just do what we came here to do. Let’s enjoy the day with each other … together.” Once the buses arrived it was pretty much the same; everyone found their spot, made themselves comfortable and did what they usually do … connect, relax and enjoy the spoils.
There it was again – perspective, understanding and unconditional love. A reminder to us that just as the MCHCT have these families backs, they too have ours – #TogetherWeAreStronger
As we reflect back on this day there were many special moments, some of which we will share with you below:
1) The gentle tugs on our t-shirts that seemed to happen all day long from little smiley faces wanting hugs and kisses;
2) The sibling whose head lingered a little longer on my shoulder and arms held on a little tighter as we shared a moment of mutual understanding;
3) The angel mom who hugged me so tightly and rocked me from side to side;
4) The survivor mom holding onto her last thread as tears threatened to come pouring down as she shares about their recent relapse experience;
5) The survivor mom delivering a beautiful bouquet of flowers to show her thanks and appreciation for the years we have been there for her family;
6) The survivor child whose face lit up as she spotted me across the lawn and came running into my arms whispering “I’ve missed you…”;
7) The warrior child who had chemo in the week and who is on steroids looking and feeling grumpy yet still manages to give me a warm hug and a slight smile;
8) The warrior family who has lost everything and now live apart, laying back on the grass enjoying this moment of being together as a family; a moment where there is no worry about where their next meal will come from or whose floor they will sleep on tonight;
9) The survivor family who face their upcoming cancerversary. Suddenly they don’t feel as unsettled and nervous as they did before because they are with their people and now can face anything because they know they are never really alone and are loved unconditionally;
10) The angel family with mixed emotions doing what they must for their remaining children;
11) The angel mom whispering the words “thank you for not forgetting about us” during a shared hug.
When you think about it, there really was so little … no carnival games, no jumping castle, no teen games, no gazebos or parasols and ALOT of wind. All there was was a day where like-experienced families were able to spend a day in shared togetherness and unconditional love … and that was enough.
When we look back to our first family day in 2009, we remember how this day was the highlight of our year. Simply being able to experience a normal day doing something normal felt like bliss! A day where we could visit with those people that had become like family to us on our journey in a place of safety.
If you told us in 2009 that we would one day choose to sit in hospitals visiting with sick children and their caregivers we would have said you must be joking; all we wanted was to get done with treatment and get on with our lives.
The truth is …. there’s something about being there for others in cancerville that heals that part of us that was so deeply hurt when we heard those dreaded words … “your child has cancer”.
If our work inspires you to be there for families rocked by child cancer, take a look at our latest fundraiser (http://mychildhascancer.org.za/help-us-raise-r1m). Are you are 1 of 1000?
Until next time, stay blessed.