Cancer survivors share heroic tales

Carol-Lynn Ford, from Muizenberg, recently diagnosed with cancer and her mother, Lorna Ford, from Steenberg.

“Choose to live” is the message cancer survivors and their carers took home after a morning of being inspired at the 17th annual Cancer Survivors’ Day, at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on Saturday September 9.

Cancercare Rondebosch first hosted the event in 2000 to inspire those living with the disease.

Speaking at the event, student Sebastian Matheson, 25, from Constantia, said that when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2013 he never thought he would be captain of his rugby team at Bishops Diocesan College and writing exams the one week and in hospital fighting for his life, the next.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a very rare type of cancerous tumour that grows in bones or soft tissue around the bones, such as cartilage or nerves. It usually affects people between the ages of 10 and 20 and has a high cure rate.

Mr Matheson has been clear of the disease for more than three years.

“Take each day at a time is a phrase I never understood and found quite cheesy,” he said, “but it taught me to focus on the now.”

Facing months of chemotherapy, hospitalisation and terrible medical procedures had made him appreciate life and find “a little bit of light in the darkness”.

“Yes, it is happening to me but it is not happening to anyone I love. Yes, I had cancer, but I knew I could and would beat my cancer,” he said.

He said there were people who had been through much worse and he realised that it was important to live your life to the full because it could change in a second.

“I’m on borrowed time. Every day I live another day I wasn’t supposed to,” he said. “I now wake up not in another hospital bed. I’m still here.”

Mr Matheson said everyone had their own inspirational story.

“It all depends on how and how long I live my life. To inspire. To do better. To be better. To live with urgency and be happy,” he said.

Linda Greeff, oncology social worker for Cancercare Rondebosch, said the goal was to acknowledge patients on treatment and to recognise their cancer journey.

“It is also a chance for us to raise awareness around the fact that this illness can be treated and that people can live long and productive lives with cancer,” she said.

The day was a celebration of life. “Being around other cancer survivors inspires and motivates people. From the moment you receive your diagnosis, you are a survivor and this day is for you,” she said.

Attendees lit candles in memory of those who had died, were on treatment or had been diagnosed recently with cancer.