Leukaemia changed Sibongile Mkhwanazi’s (21) life drastically five years ago.
She was living with her mother in Kroonstad, Free State, when her condition was diagnosed.
“My life took a serious turn. I moved from being a normal teenager to being told I had a life, threatening disease.
“I had pimples on my face and they started to swell. This prompted my mom to seek medical assistance. I also became weak and my performance at school was affected so I stopped going.”
After being diagnosed with leukaemia, Mkhwanazi was admitted to hospital for six months. During this time she felt hopeless.
“I felt … so different from the other children at my school and I also could not bear to see my mother going through so much heartache.”
Each year thousands of South Africans are diagnosed with leukaemia, a blood cancer which was once considered deadly.
These days leukaemia is being treated with growing success. This is according to Dr Guni Goolab, Principal Officer of the Government Employees Medical Scheme.
Dr Goolab said that the development of cancer medicine has grown so advanced that leukaemia and other blood cancers are no longer considered a death sentence.
“Survival rates from acute lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common of the childhood cancers, have climbed from three per cent to approximately 90 per cent over the last 40 years with the aid of specialised treatment such as bone marrow transplantation, which helps clean out cancer cells from a patient’s system,” said Dr Goolab.
Mkhwanazi still has regular check-ups and doctors have given her and her mother hope.
“Recently the doctors informed me that they have found a bone marrow donor and they are now preparing my body for the surgery.”
For most leukaemia sufferers, a bone marrow stem cell transplant is often the only hope of survival.
This is where organisations such as the Sunflower Fund are helpful.
The Sunflower Fund is a non-governmental organisation that is committed to growing the South African Bone Marrow Registry by raising the funds needed to pay for tissue typing tests.
The chances of finding a bone marrow match are low – just 1 in 100 000 people will be a match.
This is why the Sunflower Fund works to encourage all South Africans to join the Bone Marrow Registry. Joining the registry is easy and involves simply taking a blood sample to determine whether you may potentially be a bone marrow match for a future patient.
Mkhwanazi urged all South Africans to learn about leukaemia and save lives.
“I would like to appeal to South Africans to equip themselves with knowledge about leukaemia in order to save the lives of many.”
Did you know?
- Only two teaspoons of blood are needed to register you as a donor.
- Donating bone marrow stem cells is no more painful than donating blood.
- You need to be between the ages of 18 and 50 and weigh over 50kg to be a donor.
- The chance of finding a donor is 1 in 100 000 people.
- One in every 100 000 South Africans will be diagnosed with leukaemia.
- Leukaemia is the massive over-production of defective white blood cells which displaces normal healthy red and white cells and platelets and weakens the body.
For more information Call the Sunflower Fund toll-free:
0800 121 082 to become a donor, or visit www.sunflowerfund.org.za
* Additional reporting from Government EmployeeS Medical Scheme.