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Leukaemia Unveiled
Description of Book: Seventeen years old and faced with the most difficult situation of my young life. The only problem was that I had no idea what was actually wrong with me. Leukaemia? What is that? It’s cancer. ‘Am I going to die?’, she asked. The immediate response to being diagnosed with such a horrifying disease is ‘Fear!’ So much anxiety kicks in and even my parents could not provide definite answers. Suddenly I was shown a whole new world. My bedroom became a hospital isolation room, and I am forced to take a stand in favour of life and fight! The pain, the anguish and all the nights that I spent wishing that this disease hadn’t chosen me, but it did. This is my story...

Leukaemia Unveiled is a heart wrenching, yet eye-opening account of a seventeen year old South African teenager’s battle with leukaemia.

Strange symptoms

Chanel Wewege was just like any other South African teenager. She lived in Port Elizabeth, in grade 11 and enjoyed spending time with her friends. Chanel came from a religious family and was close to her younger brothers and parents.  She first began experiencing strange symptoms whilst on holiday but they became progressively worse over time. It started off with a bit of dizziness but quickly progressed to serious bleeding, bruising and unbearable back pain.

Her parents, sensing that something was seriously wrong with their daughter took Chanel to the hospital where, after extensive testing, it was realised that Chanel was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). AML is a type of blood cancer that, without treatment, can quickly become fatal.

Chanel and her family barely had time to process the devastating news before she was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town to begin treatment.

Chanel spent an entire year at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and continuous testing – a process that took an extreme toll on her body, whittling her down to a mere 35 to 40 kilograms. The treatment forced her to be isolated from others, as exposure to any germs could potentially overwhelm her severely strained immune system.

Another devastating consequence of her condition was losing her hair. Despite having being warned by her medical team, Chanel found this to be an incredibly hard reality to accept.

Constant fear of death

The psychological side of cancer is usually overlooked by outsiders. Living with a chronic illness is difficult at the best of times but when you are stuck in a hospital bed for a year, facing with the constant fear of death, it is almost impossible to stay strong.

During these dark times, mother stayed by her bedside constantly, acting as a pillar of strength and doing her very best to keep her daughter’s hope alive. Her father was tasked with looking after her two brothers back home in Port Elizabeth.

Leukaemia Unveiled delves deep into both the physical and psychological toll that cancer takes on not only the patient, but the entire family. Chanel’s family pulled together under the toughest of circumstances to overcome one child’s illness whilst trying to provide their other two kids with as normal a life as possible.

Chanel is now 28 years old and has been in remission since 2005. She still lives in Port Elizabeth, has worked as a make-up artist and even auditioned to become a Top Billing presenter in 2012. She is also the lead singer in a rock band called Shackles and Sherry


Leukaemia Unveiled

25 November 2013 By Alan Straton 1 Comment

On 9 May 2012 after extensive lobbying of local government the Aloe Igazi Haemotology unit was officially opened. A scant 12 days later the state of the art unit was dealt a body blow as the Eastern Cape Health Department failed to staff the unit with the promised staff of 22 nurses as, despite having advertised and recruited staff it had yet to appoint them as there was a moratorium (on hiring) because there was no money leaving the unit to stand empty.

In the midst of all these shenanigans it seemed that bureaucrats had forgotten their clients – the patients who had to now continue travelling to Cape Town for treatment.

One of those who assisted at the 9 May opening and who had undergone extensive treatment in Cape Town was local lass, Chanel Wewege.

At the time I asked Chanel about her diagnosis and she explained that fateful day thus; “It was in early January 2005 that my life changed significantly. I was 17 with long, dark locks of hair and an enthusiastic personality. Young and completely oblivious to most things around me when an excruciating pain in my lower back brought me to Greenacres Hospital in the early hours of what was to be a very scary morning.

“My parents and brother were at my side as the nurses took my blood pressure and temperature. Just as I was about to be sent home with some pain pills, something quite amazing happened – Dr Swart walked by, noticed me on the examination bed and made her way toward us. “Are you always this pale?” she asked. I replied that I was generally pasty and that it had never bothered me before. She then did something unexpected and pricked my finger with a blood sugar needle, we were sent home and told that the results of the blood test would be called through to us.

“At home I immediately fell asleep on the couch and was soon woken by the sound of the phone ringing; Mom started crying and then started packing a bag with my clothes, puzzled and frightened I asked what was going on and all she said was that it was serious and we needed to get to the hospital.

“Back in the hospital trauma section’s office Dr Wickens sat across from us and his lips moved saying; “I am not going to beat around the bush.” I ran out and sat in the passage. A few seconds later I heard Mom scream; “No!!!”

“It was soon revealed to me that I had been diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukaemia, that I had had this disease for six months and that I needed to get to Cape Town as soon as possible. That was the first day I saw my Dad cry and the last time I’d see my Mom the same way ever again.”

At the time Chanel also proudly told me that she was writing a book about her experiences.

Fast forward to Thursday 21 November 2013 at the Galaxy Grill Restaurant in Port Elizabeth, and the launching of Chanel’s book, Leukaemia Unveiled.

Describing her book Chanel says; “If you are seeking a meaning in your own life and want to compare to others to see what it is you lack in yours, read Leukaemia Unveiled. It’s a story of Hope, Survival and the utter Unknown! If you have just been introduced to the disease either in yourself or through a loved one and you are looking for guidance and answers for what’s to come, Leukaemia Unveiled is an easy-to-read in depth look into ‘physically’ enduring this disease.”

When asked why she titled the book Leukaemia Unveiled, Wewege explained; “I wanted to denounce the stigma attached to Cancer. There are survival stories as well as tragedies, I wanted to give people a better insight into what ‘really’ happens when you’re in there. An Unveiling is almost like a ‘setting free’ and that is what I seek to do with this book.”

Fighting cancer can be a very long and lonely road that requires deep self introspection and masses of self confidence, especially in one so young, and Chanel has the following advice to fellow sufferers; “Use every ounce of your being to fight. Never give up! It’s a long, hard road and there will be many unfathomable experiences, but carry on. Faith is the answer, go deep inside your spiritual self and draw from the courage you possess! A lesson I learned in hospital is that there is no truer verse than; God shall not give you a task that He knows you cannot handle.”

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