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My Inspiration to Survive

I have got my Mom by my side and the Lord in my heart…. – written by Byron Frank Ball (13 November 2014):

My name is Byron Ball, I’m twenty-five years old. This is my story and I hope it can inspire others.

I moved to the UK in March of 2010. I lived in the UK for one year, but it was at a vulnerable time in my life. I was only twenty-one at the time and was still very immature. I was still battling to cope with the passing of my best friend, Morgan, after a tragic car accident. We were closer than brothers and if I had any problems in my life he would always be there to offer a hand or a word of advice and I would do the same for him. He had always encouraged me to avoid drugs & was hopeful that I would beat my addiction.

While I was staying in the UK I did not have people like Morgan to help me through difficulties, watching over me and I slipped back into old habits, drinking and using drugs again. It got too expensive for me to live in the UK, as I was spending all my income on alcohol or drugs. So in 2011 I returned to South Africa.

Work was difficult to find, until I got an opportunity to work in the DRC. This is where my life changed for the better. I really felt like this was my break and a real chance to change my life. I stopped using drugs and learnt how to control my drinking. I really felt like this was where I was meant to be and that my life finally had a purpose. That is when I met a man who introduced me to the Lord. Although I knew the Lord and I believed in Jesus, he brought me closer to Him.

It was at the end of 2012 when I started getting sick. I was still working up in the Congo at the time, so I went into hospital there. I was getting worse by the day. I was constantly nauseous, suffering from terrible headaches and had no strength. Because I was in the Congo, they first treated me for malaria, typhoid fever, yellow fever and other common diseases prevalent in the DRC. Unfortunately, none of their medicines were helping me and they couldn’t determine what was wrong with me.

The company decided to send me back to South Africa. I had spent nearly all the money I had saved on doctors’ consultations during December and still did not know why I was so sick. The pain was so bad at this point that I could not sit up for a long period of time. Finally a doctor referred me to the Helen Joseph Hospital.

They were on skeleton staff, and I was told it would be best to come back on the 2nd January 2013. My Mom and I returned to the hospital then. I had been given a letter for the eye doctor, as I was having a lot of problems with my vision. As she looked at my eyes, she said that it looked like the problem was coming from my brain, and that she wanted me to go for a CT Scan.

I had the scan done and stayed at the hospital overnight. The results of the CT Scan showed that I had a mid-brain tumour. I was distraught and felt that my life had had come to an end. It was terrible. My Mom was able to calm me down.

I was then transferred to the Johannesburg General Hospital, as they have a well equipped Neurological Department and this would be the best place for my operation to take place. I had to have a VP shunt put in, as the tumour was blocking the natural path for the brain fluid to flow off and as a result the fluid was gathering in my skull. This was the reason for all the pain and other complications I had been experiencing. After the shunt was put in I spent a few days in hospital. The pain was gone – and finally my eye was facing straight again!

I had follow-up check-ups every month afterwards. Around April I started to hear a fluttering sound, like butterflies, in my ears. My speech and movements also became slower. We went back to the doctors, and another CT Scan was done. It was discovered that the tumour had doubled in size since January.

The doctors wanted to perform a biopsy or try to remove the tumour. But it would have been a very risky operation, as the tumour was in the mid-brain and touching areas governing my motor skills. I was given a zero percent chance of coming out of the theatre “normal” or alive.

My Mom asked if they could do radiation or chemotherapy and it was decided that radiation treatment would be the best option. It was a very long process, as the hospital has a huge patient waiting list. During this time, while we were waiting for the planning to be completed, the tumour continued to grow until I was going deaf, blind and could hardly walk.

It was at this point that I really thought I was going to die. I said goodbye to all my family members every night. I would cry every night when I went to sleep, as I thought I might not wake up the next morning.

My Mom and I spent a lot of time at the hospital while the planning was being done: a mould of my head was made and then another of my upper body. These two moulds were mounted onto a board, on which I lay face down during radiation treatment.

It was on Monday 24th June 2013, when I had my first session of radiation. It only lasted about ten minutes and was a very quick process.

At Johannesburg General the patient list is so huge that my Mom and I got up at three thirty in the morning to be at the hospital by four thirty & to stand in the queue. This went on every week until the 13th August 2013 when my radiation treatment was completed.

During this period my hearing had come back and my vision had improved, although my hair had fallen out and I had a strange taste in my mouth every time I came out of radiation. I was more positive, as I knew the radiation was working and that I would live. During radiation they would do frequent CT Scans and noticed that the tumour was shrinking.

I went back to the hospital every six months for check-ups after radiation and for CT Scans to make sure the tumour was not growing again.

It was on the 14th February 2014, five days before my twenty-fifth birthday, that my Mom and I went to see the doctor for the results of the CT Scan I had done a week prior to our appointment. He told me that the radiation had worked and had killed the tumour.

This was the greatest news I had received during my entire life. It was the best birthday present I could have asked for. It was confirmed I would live!

I started working again and was feeling great and started living life to the full again.

However, in August 2014, I received the news that the tumour had started growing again and that the cancer had returned. My Mom and I were distraught.

My eyesight has started deteriorating again and I am suffering with terrible headaches. I am also experiencing great fatigue once more. As a result I can’t stay awake for a full day and have lost my job.

I am booked for an MRI on the 18th November 2014 and will hopefully start treatment again soon.

I am fortunate to have the support of my Mom. She is keeping me positive and together we have got such a strong faith and believe that the Lord will heal me again. I believe that the Lord has a great purpose for me and that I must be patient and keep my faith strong and that the Lord will show His purpose for me.

My Mom and I don’t have the greatest living environment right now. (I am living in a room with her). But I think that this is the best for me at the moment, as I cherish her support and need it when I am feeling down, which is quite often.

Despite this we are thankful to have a roof over our heads and even though we struggle, we have a food every day. We thank the Lord for this every day and pray that we can beat this tumour.

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