Fortune, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, refers to chance or luck as an arbitrary force affecting human affairs.
The day Fortune Monama’s (21) mother named him, she set a path for his future that neither she nor anyone else would ever have imagined.
While his friends were enjoying their Gr 7 school year, Fortune, unbeknown to those around him, was very sick.
“I began feeling sick in June 2012 with swollen lymph nodes in my neck, swollen feet and I was dizzy and tired all the time. One day during exams, I collapsed at school and my mom took me to a doctor who diagnosed me with tonsillitis,” he explained.
The doctor advised them to return a month later, but his mother took him to the Pietersburg Provincial Hospital for tests.
“My blood count was very low and on 26 August, I was admitted to hospital where tests were done. At some stage, doctors thought I was HIV-positive. In November, I was moved to the Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) ward which became my home for almost a year.”
At the TLC ward, Fortune’s bone marrow was tested and he was diagnosed with stage three leukemia. He had to start with chemotherapy immediately.
He told Polokwane Observer that his treatment began in January 2013, after a short visit home and he received chemo during a seven-day cycle.
During his stay at the TLC ward, Fortune formed a bond with the ward’s facilitator, Bobby Were, the doctors and a lady named Theresa Yocub.
Chemotherapy was difficult and Fortune remembers losing all his hair, suffering from cracked lips, tongue and gums, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and a rotten smell whenever he had food in front of him.
“The vomiting was terrible, we would be pricked with needles up to five times a day and the chemo burnt our skin and turned our nails black. I was also very worried about my academics. The ward was a very different environment from what I was used to. I needed new coping mechanisms,” he said.
“I was discharged in August 2013 and had to start Gr 8 the following year. I had to settle for a school close to home and I found I could not relate to my peers.” But, Fortune had a goal in mind and worked hard every day to be able to go to university. He is now a first-year student at the University of the Witwatersrand.
“I would like to be a doctor to help other children and to look after my mother. I still visit the TLC ward and I took a gap year in 2019 to spend time there. I love community work, feeding those on the streets and giving them hope.”
With seven years in remission, his only fear is to go through the treatment again. He believes a happy patient is a cured patient and laughter is the best medicine.
“Cancer can be cured. Before you believe what other people say, do some research, reading up on the matter. I am happy to meet negative people as it helps me to stay positive. Now I would like to help other patients stay positive.”
Story: Maretha Swanepoel
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