The story of Fortunate Sithole

Categories: Care and People & Places.

At 41 years old, Fortunate Sithole is not ready to die.

It is said that life happens when we make other plans. Often in ways we could never conceive. Fortunate never imagined herself shrunk in bed in the Boland town of Franschhoek, unable to walk as she waits for ‘her day’. Fortunate is very ill; some say she has mere days left to live. ‘But, I have not written my novel yet,’ she counters. ‘What about the story I have to tell?’ Her eyes are big and shiny, her cheek bones pointed over a pearly grin.

In addition to severe HPV (human papillomavirus) sores across her lower body, Fortunate was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the Franschhoek Clinic in 2016. She started chemotherapy at Tygerberg Hospital, 60 kilometres away in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, traveling to the facility in province-funded HealthNET vans.

The Western Cape has ninety HealthNET vehicles for transporting non-emergency patients between home and medical centres.

‘Now the doctors say they cannot do anything else for me, no more chemotherapy,’ Fortunate explains. ‘But what do they know, the doctors? They have brains like me, they are not God. Only God knows, and he is with me.’ Her voice rises in challenge: ‘I will surprise them all!’

‘Oh, yes you will,’ smiles Tiana Leonard, a social worker at Franschhoek Hospice.

Fortunate pauses, then adds: ‘We could go to Groote Schuur, for a second opinion?’ But Tiana shakes her head.

Fortunate is propped against three pillows; by her side a curtain is tied back, letting in slivers of sun. Next to her is a tidy stack of tissues, sanitary pads, surgical gloves and an array of boxes with pills – provided by the clinic. She takes two oral MST morphine tablets a day. Near her right hand is a blue leather-bound notebook; a recent gift from the hospice organisation, for her to write her memories in.

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