Gaby Kleinhans, 18, says it’s important to stay positive, despite living with a life-threatening disease.
She felt an unbearable pinching sensation in her right knee during a netball match in March. Little did she know at the time that it was a sign of Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancerous tumour that grows in the bones or soft tissue and nerves around them.
The day the biopsy results confirmed the cancer diagnosis all she could think about was her life coming to an end, she says.
“I can’t describe how I felt on that day; when I heard the doctor saying cancer, I cried, thinking I was going to die.”
After the diagnosis, she had surgery to remove the tumour and chemotherapy followed. Gaby began losing her hair. “With the first treatment of chemo, two mornings later, I woke up and long strands of hair were on my pillow. I was too scared to go to school. I tied the rest of my hair in a low ponytail, but throughout the day, I could see more bald patches and my hair forming a nest around my pompom. Now, I feel comfortable walking around like this and other times I wear my wig,” she says.
The diagnosis has also taken its toll on her school work as she had to catch up on the classes she misses on her own time – not easy while undergoing regular chemotherapy.
She has chemotherapy at the Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands every third week – either as an outpatient for an hour, daily over five days, or as an in-patient over two days.
She has missed her English and consumer-studies June exams, and on Monday she missed an English-paper final exam because she had to go for chemo. But she says her teachers have all been very understanding and she will write the missed exams in the new year.
Despite having a positive attitude, the teen faces days when she wants to be left alone, but then her outgoing personality returns.
She says her friends, family and boyfriend have all been very supportive. Several fund-raisers are being held to help her cover her medical bills because her family’s medical aid was exhausted earlier this year.
Gaby says she didn’t know what she wanted to do after school until she found out she had cancer. Now she wants to become a physiotherapist, helping others battling injury or illness.
To support Gaby with medical costs, contact Tarryn Christians at 078 803 9444.