Family and friends of a young woman who fought her cancer battle bravely have been cycling every event they can to raise money for CANSA.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Friends are coming together to raise money for CANSA in memory of their friend Bee who lost her battle with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM). The funds raised will be to provide care and support to patients and families to ensure that other families can battle this debilitating disease.
Bee was blessed that her family could provide the care she needed, but many families are not as equipped. These funds will assist families who have been forced to face similar realities to that of Bee and her family, who cannot afford to provide the type of care that Bee was able to receive.
Multiple friends and family of Bee are cycling to raise awareness and funds. They hope that by raising awareness, families will be able to better fight cancer.
“We pedal for a reason, no matter the weather or season!”
It all started in August 2015, Bianca, more affectionately known as Bee, was plagued with months of headaches and blurred vision. She was initially diagnosed with sinusitis and flu and given a few saline drips to relieve some of her symptoms. After her symptoms persisted, a Sister recommended she get a second opinion from a specialist.
She was 23-years-old when she was sent for an MRI. The scan identified a 5cm malignant cyst in Bee’s brain, which was diagnosed as Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM) – an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer. Friends and family were told by doctors that she had 18 months. Bee immediately started her biggest fight.
“Bee bravely endured several months of chemotherapy, radiation, endless amounts of cortisone and palmsful of pills. She managed to make it past the allotted 18 months and we were blessed enough to spend three of her birthdays with her. Several check-ups left us feeling relieved and filled with hope as they revealed no changes or growth in the monster. However, we watched Bee battle through symptoms of fatigue, nausea, constipation and sore muscles.”
Throughout her treatment, Bee stayed positive and fought hard.
“Even with everything she was going through, Bee still smiled, thumbs-up and fighting through every session of treatment. You see, Bee was a warrior from early on in her life. At the age of 5, she was diagnosed with a rare type of cerebral palsy called Worster-Drought syndrome (WDS).
This syndrome affects muscles around the throat and mouth and significantly impairs speech, swallowing, coughing and feeding. Soon enough Bee realized she was different to others and had to not only struggle with everyday activities such as eating and speaking, but had to endure seizures, along with coping with society treating her differently. Through the guidance and support of her family, she remained a loving person who treated everyone equally and with the kindness that we all wish we had.”
In 2017, Bee went for a regular check-up and was faced with devastating news; doctors found eight tumours in her brain. They notified the family that her treatment was no longer working.
“She lost the ability to walk. Shortly after that, her speech was stolen. ‘Could this get any worse?’ we thought. And then it did. Bee could no longer eat or see. In a matter of weeks, the monster took over everything. She was bedridden, unable to do anything for herself. Bed baths, nappy changes and bedside duties became a reality for Bee and her family. She lost all mobility and had to be fed through a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy tube). Someone had to be by her side constantly. Bee’s only form of communication with us came through the tears rolling down her temple.”
She was struggling, and the health professionals surrounding them were lacking in empathy. They decided to take her home where she could be comfortable and surrounded by loved ones. They got Hospice involved, and her family were with her day and night, taking turns to care for her so others could rest.
“Fortunately, Bee’s parents were able to support her at home with nursing staff, pain management medicine, a wheelchair, a hospital bed, and clean clothes and bedding to ensure her comfort until her very last breath.”
Sadly, Bee left this world on the 17th of July 2018.
“Even during her battle/journey with GBM she pushed her limits. Bee smiled from the day she was born with all her heart until she was physically no longer able to. She glowed like an angel and people knew there was something special about her the moment they looked into her beautiful crystal blue eyes.
Bee was the most phenomenal person you could ever come across. She loved her dogs and family with all her heart and never shied away from loving anyone who encountered her. She taught us to love unconditionally, to never judge and to smile even when there was nothing left to smile about. Nothing on this earth can compare to the smile she shared so generously and the love she spread so selflessly. Irrespective of the monsters’ life can present, she taught us to hug harder, to love longer, to smile bigger and to laugh louder, no matter the circumstances.”
Since her passing, friends and family have joined forces. They take part in every cycle challenge they can find. Usually coming together in a group as large as 48 riders.
“We are between 10 and 48 at various races, at the 947 we were 26 riders and 20 odd supporters, last year at Sondela we were 48 riders, 10 supporters, 100 Cycle Challenge we were 10 riders and 10 supporters … So it varies a bit!” – Stephanie Coetzee
Together they have already raised over R60,000.00 towards their goal of R300,000.00. All the funds are going to CANSA. The Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA’s) purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa by offering a unique, integrated service to the public which involves holistic cancer care and support to all people affected by cancer.