A Story of Hope

Isn’t it often the case in life that the smallest of incidents be it a word, a gesture, a chance meeting can be a catalyst that can only properly be appreciated on hindsight!

I arrive at Lynette’s current place of abode which is a section of the residential care home Shady Pines. It’s a romantic name and appropriate as it is situated in the rural area known as Benoni Agricultural Holdings. One certainly gets the impression of being out in the country with the expansive green views around.

Lynette is standing waiting to greet me at the top of the steps-she is the picture of elegance, perfectly groomed with a warm smile disarming any sense of shyness on my part! She puts me at my ease! I have to admit she is a far cry from the image I had created in my head given her diagnoses and stage of disease! If ever there is an example of LIVING graciously with cancer Lynette is one such lady!

Having said that, there is a great deal that Lynette has to overcome to present herself as she does. Undoubtedly these days, the greatest being the problem of her pain, however a glimpse into the life that I was privy to hear about from Lynette reveals an overwhelming sense of the phrase “against all odds “! That very theme assailed from the moment of her birth! She was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect (hole in the heart) which required immediate surgery. Lynette was born to a young single Mom who had chosen to give up her baby for adoption.

Lynette says that the proposed adoptive parents were informed about her heart condition and given the choice by Social Services to withdraw from the agreement to adopt. They declined that option. Lynette’s operation was performed and was a complete success.  Lynette’s new family comprised of a Mom and Dad and a brother David who had been adopted by the family three years previously.Asked if in the ensuing years she had ever attempted to find her biological mother she says she did but was discouraged by the efforts of the Social Services at that time  and decided not to persue that exploration any more.

During her growing up years the family lived on the East Rand. Lynette and David were schooled in Kempton Park. She and David had a good relationship. Lynette recalls a happy family life.It therefore came as a great shock, after Lynette’s matric year to discover that her parents were to be divorced! This was a very painful experience for Lynette! The love and safety of the home that she had known seemed over night to vanish into mid-air. She was devastated! Lynette then entered the job market and worked as a saleslady before subsequently working in a hardware store for a total of 7 years.  Internal staff conflict forced Lynette to resign.

The years that followed saw Lynette struggling with severe depression, resorting to maladaptive ways of coping  and resulting in several admissions to  various psychiatric institutions. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Lynette describes a life that was chaotic and at times the desperation so great that she, on more than one occasion tried to take her own life!  The relationship with brother David deteriorated and her Mom developed a dependency on alcohol. Her relationship with her father was emotionally as well as physically distant .He had moved to Port Elizabeth.When asked about other relationships in her life Lynette went to a drawer nearby and took out some framed photos coated in dust indicating it had been some time since viewing these photos! The photo that put a smile on Lynette’s face was that of Jean V who was a keen motorcyclist who often rode with Lynette as a pillion passenger!  Asked whether she ever took over the driver’s seat she said “no “she was more than happy to take a back seat !

Some years after this Lynette and Mom moved to Mackenzie Park . It was soon after that , that tragedy struck again . Lynette discovered a lump on her right breast . After some inappropriate medical decisions she finally landed under the care of a surgeon who performed a right mastectomy followed not long after with a left mastectomy . She was referred subsequently to the oncology unit at the Glynwood Hospital where she was told that her cancer was a particularly aggressive type but radiation and chemotherapy was strongly advised.  At this stage the cancer had spread to the gallbladder. 

A cholecystectomy was performed.  Lynette bravely went through all the treatment until the day she was told by the oncologist that her disease was no longer responding to treatment and in fact the cancer had further spread to the liver. Her response to that was one of shock and reactive anger but countered by the relief that she would no longer have to go through treatment.

Asking Lynette what this whole experience had taught her? Her reply was  …”To trust no one! “It was at this time that Lynette remembered the lady called Sheena who had come to the ward at the Glynwood to see her but as the screens were around Lynette’s bed Sheena just popped her head around the curtain handing over a business card saying “ if at anytime you need help give me a ring “ !  That card was indeed… the catalyst!

Sheena represents a cancer support group now known as ‘wings of hope. “  Lynette duly phoned Sheena and attended a few of the group meetings. When Lynette stopped attending … Sheena paid a visit to Lynette’s home in Mackenzie Park and discovered that she and Mom were simply not coping! Now Sheena, being the owner of Shady Pines, was in the fortunate position of being able to extend an invitation to Lynette and her Mom  to come and live at Shady Pines. There was no hesitation in accepting that invitation …’it was like a life line ‘ Lynette said .

Sheena realised quickly that Lynette needed help with her symptoms of pain, nausea vomiting etc and with medication . With Lynette’s consent she requested the services of Hospice East Rand! What a thrill it was for Sheena, when Sister Marja appeared as the Community Sister allocated to attend to Lynette. Marja had been the Hospice Sister who had attended to her Dad on the very same property many years previously!

And so the journey with Hospice East Rand began and continues to today. Some 2 years later the routine is such…  Sister Marja visits every Friday and is in 24 hour cellphone contact, Dr Jenni the Hospice doctor sees Lynette once per month and she in turn is available 24 hrs for Sister Marja.

Lynette’s condition is stable but now and again serious complications arise from the disease process! Her abdominal distention due to advanced liver involvement is a source of huge discomfort. She is adamant she will not go back into  hospital regardless of circumstance. Her support system is geared for that! This medical support structure, in its consistency and reliability, is what affords Lynette a peace of mind that she has rarely experienced in her recent life. Testimony to that fact is that 2 months ago Lynette’s Mom suddenly and tragically passed away in her sleep. Lynette was to discover her in the morning when she went to wake her up! Their relationship over the past years had been an extremely supportive one so yet again Lynette faced trauma on a major scale! It is testimony to her support system that she has been able to work through that grief.

Additional to the aforementioned support is the ongoing amazing support of Sheena in so many aspects! Also a gentleman friend named Bill has become a great source of companionship and encouragement! Lynette described him as her soulmate!

A year ago with the support of these friends Lynette was able to take a flight to Port Elizabeth to reconnect with her Dad and celebrate her birthday with him! They are now in regular conversation!  David is also in contact with Lynette. Both contacts mean a great deal to Lynette.

Asked about a spiritual connection …Lynette said in her own words “God and I have a special relationship! “Finally asking Lynette to comment about the ‘ trust ‘ comment eluded to in the conversation, she says Hospice East Rand, Sister Marja, Dr Jenni, Shady Pines proprietor Sheena and others have totally restored her loss of trust. The support of her family  has also  significantly contributed to that.