As I sit here under my mama’s favourite white stinkwood tree, my mind wanders to this day, 14 years ago. I am time-travelling back to the year 2000. I can see myself sitting at my darling mom’s side – chatting, laughing, singing, reading bits and pieces, whilst unceremoniously perched on the edge of an impossibly high, cold, steel hospital bed. Professor Peter Jacobs, then Director of Bone Marrow Transplantation, Constantiaberg Medi Clinic, walks into the room in full hospital regalia, slumps wearily into the ugly but practical visitors’ chair, sighs heavily, and utters the words: “We lost Chris.”
I will never forget that moment, in the isolation ward of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. That moment when I noticed the flash of fear, utter disbelief and immense sadness draw over my mom’s gorgeous, gentle face.
In a strange, but very real way, my mom had walked along the same road with Chris Corlett, a 17 year old Leukaemia sufferer, and his loved ones. My mom, like Chris, had also undergone a bone marrow transplant, in September of that year. They didn’t know each other, but knew of one another. Their backgrounds, their history, their dreams, their stories were vastly different – but their plight was just the same. They were both fighting for their lives.
I guess we, as a family, all walked this road – we walked alongside the medical staff, the fellow patients – young and old, their families and loved ones, our family and friends. Some of my saddest memories are of extremely concerned, weary parents carrying their young, balding and weak-beyond-belief, children around the ward – mothers and fathers carrying lives that hadn’t even really begun. I didn’t know, but learnt then and there, that blood-related cancers affect huge numbers of children and young adults.
Chris was such – a young man, diagnosed with Leukaemia and fighting for his precious young life. We were amazed and inspired by this young man’s courage, strength, determination and remarkable creative talent – a talent which he harnessed in his darkest moments to spread awareness and drum up public support to realise his wish – that the SABMR develops and grows, so that future leukaemia sufferers have opportunities for full recovery. Chris painted “Sunflowers of Hope”, whilst in isolation in 1999, to this end. ‘The Sunflower Fund’ was born, with his mother, Tina Botha, at the helm – to support the SABMR to increase the worldwide database of donors.
As you can imagine, this story is very close to my heart, as it was so closely intertwined with my mother’s fight – a battle she fought bravely, but sadly lost, early in 2001.
You may be asking, “What’s this got to do with me?” or Daddy & Fox, for the matter. Well, at the very least, I believe we are all connected and this story illustrates just that – I am hoping that this connection, a shared humanity, will spill over, and that someone out there may consider to sign up as a donor and help save a life. My dear, darling mother, and Chris Corlett passed on – but I know of many who have survived, and have conquered this dreaded disease. I implore you to take the necessary steps to register – it’s a matter of a simple blood test, at no cost to you. Buy a bandana today at your local Pick ‘n Pay or Round Table – funds raised through ‘National Bandana Day’ on 12 October, go towards paying for the expensive tissue typing (DNA) tests for new donors to join ‘The South African Bone Marrow Registry’ (SABMR).
And, finally – my mother’s story planted the seed for what I am doing today. My dream of creating beautiful sleep wear and lounge wear, accessible online, was borne at this time when I was frantically and desperately trying to find suitable sleep wear for my mom, for her long stay in the isolation unit prior to her bone marrow transplant.
It’s on days such as today, that I am reminded how privileged I am – what an incredible privilege to be alive and healthy, and to be able to offer, in some small way: convenience, comfort and nurturing to those in discomfort and pain, and for those simply needing nurturing, during a time of reverie, retreating, regrouping, reclining, and rejuvenation.
I am truly grateful, and thank you all, from the bottom of my heart – my followers, clients, co-workers, family and friends.