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Dear Cancer Warrior…


You don’t know me, but you certainly may remember me! My name is Cayla and I am a Matric pupil at St John’s D.S.G. The last few months have been pretty difficult for me – I’ve been in and out of hospital, and was eventually diagnosed with both Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Coxsackievirus, amongst some other lovely things inbetween! It’s been quite a worrying time and again this week, I’ve found myself back in hospital. But this post is not about me; it’s about YOU and the impact you’ve had on my life, without even realising it.

A few weeks ago (just before lockdown began), my doctor – who happens to be your doctor too – recommended that I go for blood tests (again!) On this particular day, my blood pressure was really low (102/48) and I was dehydrated, which resulted in the nurses struggling to draw blood. They tried to extract it from multiple sites, numerous times and eventually even used a syringe – again, without much success. The process was tedious and painful, and eventually, feeling sore, tired, sick and frustrated, I was fed up. I remember making quite a scene, insisting (in no uncertain terms) that the nurses please STOP. I was tired of being poked and prodded. I was tired of feeling so sick. And I just wanted to go home for a bit and come back later when my head was “back in the game.”

And so, when they agreed, I (still feeling utterly annoyed!) headed back into the waiting room, and this is when my gaze landed in your direction. I was stunned as I noticed you and guessed, by your appearance, that you must be in the middle of treatment: despite your beautiful hair having fallen out, the horrendous medication that must have been coursing through your body and the uncertainty you may still be facing, there you sat: bravely, calmly and patiently, awaiting your own turn to have bloods taken.

At that moment, my irritation was replaced with both awe and embarrassment. I felt ridiculous for having behaved the way I just had, when you must be going through SO much more, in comparison, to what I was, at the time. Yet you were so calm and collected! You were the embodiment of strength, in every sense of the word.

I went home feeling a mix of emotions, but more than anything, so incredibly inspired by you. I felt I needed to do something to honour you; something to remind me of what you had (unknowingly!) just taught me: to always have gratitude for what we have, even in the midst of the hardships and challenges we face.

For the past few years, I have been growing my hair. It was LONG and I loved it. The day after my blood tests, I went to the hairdresser and, with you in mind, cut off 30cm of my hair for cancer. I felt quite overwhelmed and pretty tearful too as the clippers made their way through my plait – I’m not sure why! It just felt like the right thing to do.

Then a couple weeks later, at the doctor’s rooms, I saw you again! I wanted to come up to you and chat with you about how you had inspired me. But I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to express what seeing you on that particular day, at that particular moment of my life, had meant for me. And would you find it creepy having this strange girl come up to you, saying “I cut my hair because of you?” I chickened out, and now I regret it.

I shared this story with one of my amazing teachers (who has fought cancer herself!), and this teacher then shared it with some more St John’s D.S.G. staff, who are now also all feeling super inspired too!

And so, if you see this post, I just want you to know: despite never having met me, you’ve had a profound impact on my life. I can’t even imagine what you must be facing, and I’m sure that it’s more than many of us have ever had to endure. It must be a scary time for you and your family, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic! My message to you is: Stay strong, keep fighting, and just know that I (and the rest of the St John’s D.S.G. community) are praying and thinking of you.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by the spark of another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

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