Weʼre raising £30,000 to help Mark Neethling, who is living in South Africa, fighting cancer in his spine, hip, shoulder blade and in some of his ribs.
- Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK
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The Story of Mark Neethling
It was a sunny winters morning in July this year. The Indian Ocean playing joyfully on Addington Beach, in Durban South Africa. We were sitting at the Surfer Riders Restaurant opposite the old Addington’s children hospital.
Surfers were playing in the sea. Families, tourists and local young people walked, cycled and rollerbladed in front of us whilst I was listening attentively to my old Navy pal’s challenging journey. A Journey of courage, of defiance and a Journey of blind faith.
Over breakfast Mark told me what I already knew. He had cancer. What I did not know was the extend of his illness, his personal challenge and his resolve to go to battle.
The winter sun was pleasantly warm. The Durban Bluff held its guard above the KwaZulu-Natal harbour, the world seemed content.
The reality could not have been further from the truth. Mark proceeded to tell me that in November last year he suffered excruciating back pain. His doctors perplexed by the cause thereof. His eight-year-old daughter distraught in seeing her father curled up in pain on his bedroom floor. The diagnosis differed from back muscle spasm, stress due to his recent painful divorce, to a possible childhood injury to his spine.
Eventually Mark was admitted to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital where he underwent a variety of full body scans, blood tests and bone marrow extractions. These confirmed cancer in the bottom of his spine, his hip, top of his spine, in the scapula in his shoulder blade and in some of his ribs.
During our second cup of coffee Mark paused, looking at passers by, a comfortable silence came over us. I allowed it to linger, as I did not want to pry. I allowed Mark to tell his story at his own pace. Every now and again, we diverted and talked about the tourists, surfers and bikers who passed before us. The state of Durban today, generally neglected. Mark proved to be as funny as he was years ago in the Navy, with sharp wit and quick reflections. We talked about our old Navy mates, Cuan Sawyer, Erick Cleminston, Adrian Fourie, Mark Holgate and Peter Callaghan. We reminisced about the past, we were younger then.
Eventually Mark told me that he commenced with radiation therapy, which had to be re-scheduled a few times, as the machines were down. He was warned about the side effects of nausea, diarrhoea and burning when passing urine.
Suddenly there’s a smile on his face. He told me about his parents who came to Durban to provide some moral support. Support he desperately needs. Following a painful divorce, Mark moved into bachelors flat in the Glenwood area. ‘Its OK’, he said, ‘its all I need, its home’. His eight-year-old daughter visiting him on a regular basis. He continued to tell me how close they are, his face light up with delight. She strengthens his resolve to beat the cancer, so he could be there for her. He has no intention of dying, God willing, so this disease needs to be tackled head-on. He talked warmly of his parents and described them as a tower of refuge, strength, courage and love, during this difficult time.
After the radiation treatment, steroids and cortisone followed, which left his face swollen, his throat raw, with mouth ulcers, and suffering with fatigue. But despite this, he remains in good spirit, and strong in his faith.
After we finished our breakfast, we took a short walk on the beach. He walked with a limp and complains of pain in his hip. We walked slowly. He’s been left tiered by the radiation treatment, and chemo commencing on the 30th August. That brings its own complications.
Before he dropped me off at my hotel, I asked Mark about work. He paused a bit before he answered. He doesn’t say it, but its clear that he lost his job. You only get 36 days paid sick leave, across three years, in South Africa. Then it’s no pay, and eventually, no job. He offered to do some administrative work, when he can, but his employer remained silence.
We said our good-byes and I gave my old friend a hug. Inspired by his optimism, humbled by his challenges and resolute to see if we could be of help.
Mark sends regular updates to his circle of friends via Whatsapp and Facebook. In a recent one, he wrote:-
"I have over the last while really felt my body going through a metamorphosis as drugs and treatment have taken its toll. This is a journey one doesn't want to discover, but when the storms of life come, and they do, we best be strong with anchor and sail ready!
The greatest challenge in fighting this disease is remaining positive. I have had many ups and downs over the last couple of weeks, but in saying that, I can say without a shadow of doubt that I will beat this illness.
When I am in doubt and fear of the unknown I am reminded that my God is busy doing a work and preparing me for what lies ahead.
Isaiah 64:8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. "
With no medical insurance, in a health system that is at best challenged, no income, and mounting debt, we, Mark’s friends appeal to you, to help us, to help Mark.
Any contribution would be welcomed, it doesn’t matter how small, it would be appreciated. Whether it is Rand, Dirham, Dollars, Euro’s or Pounds. Please donate via the justgiving website, https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hein-scheffer?ref=pageredirect. Thank you for help.
~ Hein Scheffer August 2018
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Aug 21, 2018
We're on your side, Mark
Aug 15, 2018
This is for Mark Neethling a former colleague. God's face is turned towards you Mark.
Aug 12, 2018
Aug 12, 2018
Thinking of you
Aug 12, 2018
Good luck Mark! We look forward to your next update.
Aug 12, 2018
Aug 11, 2018
Keep fighting Mark! You are in my thoughts. Cazz xxx
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About the fundraiser
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK
Mark Neethling and I did our national service, years ago in the South African Navy. Over the years we maintained contact, and in June we learned that he had Cancer. During July, Mark told me his story, and after talking with friends of his, we were moved to try and help Mark.
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