Sandi Pitchers Keel, aka the Dirt Barbie, will be laid to rest this week after a year-long cancer battle; she used her time to live life to the fullest and help her fellow fighters.
Johannesburg, South Africa (13 March 2023) – Sandi Pitchers Keel was known as “Dirt Barbie” and she spent decades behind the wheels of dirtbikes, KTM being her beloved brand of choice. When she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, she rallied her community and gave it her all!
We first heard about Sandi’s cancer, when she committed to cutting off her signature blonde locks to make a wig for fellow cancer patients. She snuck out of the hospital to cut her hair before treatment and donated it to be turned into a wig. The wig was donated to another cancer fighter, who had lost all her hair.
Her life changed after she had a small accident in 2021. On 17 December 2021, while travelling through the Eastern and Western Cape, Sandi’s riding partner accidentally drove into the back of her bike just outside Gariep dam. Her injuries were manageable, and the bike needed some fixing, so she spent ten days recovering at her sister’s home in Jeffreys Bay. Once all was repaired, Sandi made her way home.
On 18 January 2022, exactly one month after her accident, Sandi was admitted to Mulbarton Hospital after a weekend spent coughing, vomiting, and eventually throwing up blood. She went through a whirlwind of medical issues, from swelling due to her drip to reacting badly to medicines that sent her into anaphylaxis. Doctors were working tirelessly to figure out what was wrong. She was transferred to the Donald Gordon Hospital on the 4th of February, 2022, where she underwent three debridement operations on her arm for drip damage and a gastroscopy, which revealed an extensive infection from malnutrition.
It was only after doctors ran a series of blood tests that they realised the root of Sandi’s symptoms for which she was initially admitted. Sandi was finally diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Small Cell Carcinoma with Paraneoplastic Syndrome, a rare, aggressive cancer that started as lung cancer.
Her oncologist had given her a year, which she used to live her life to its fullest. She had set up a crowdfund to cover the costs of living with cancer, as she had become unemployed due to the disease and needed a helping hand. The campaign had raised a whopping R191,389.94 all of which was used for her care.
It was announced over the weekend, that Sandi had passed away. Thousands of South Africans, both in the motorsport industry and all the lives she touched when her cancer story was shared, have been sending condolences to her family. Her Facebook page has been filled with messages of love and remembrance.
Sandi was a woman who inspired a new generation of young girls to ride bikes and compete in the male-dominated sport. She always left people in awe of her fearless spirit and dedication to her sport.
Sandi will be missed by an entire community of dirt bikers and her loving family.
Rest in Peace Sandi.
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