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Teen Cancer Survivor Will Not Let Life Pass Him By

Ashtin Jawahir

Ashtin Jawahir

They say that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Many of us find ourselves rushing from place to place, planning all the things we need to do and never having time to appreciate the beauty around us. Or we allow the special moments with family, friends, or our experiences in life to pass us by without, really paying attention.

A cancer diagnosis within one Newcastle family has taught them to take time to slow down every now and then, and to actively participate in their lives, appreciating every joyful moment.

Since being diagnosed with cancer Ashtin Jawahir (17) has lost more than 10 kg, as well as his left leg.

His slender frame occupies a tiny space on the corner of a sofa… But his inner resolve to conquer his obstacles gives him enough strength and confidence to fill up the room.

With September being International Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Ashtin and his mother, Vishma, speak out about the inner resources they have tapped into to stay motivated, focused and hopeful, against seemingly indomitable odds that have profoundly impacted their lives.

Being a grade 11 pupil at Lincoln Heights Secondary, Ashtin’s life last year centered around maintaining good grades, spending time with friends and mastering the games on his X-box. “…And chasing girls,” Vishma pipes in, with a naughty chuckle.

Knowing the Signs of Childhood Cancer Vital

A slight pain Ashtin felt in his knee, while playing soccer with friends last December, was the first sign that something was wrong.

“It felt as though the bones in my knee were scraping against each other. In the next few months, the pain became worse and by February I could not go to school, because walking was too painful,” said Ashtin.

Six months after the pain began, following numerous medical tests, doctors diagnosed Ashtin with an aggressive form of osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone) and Ashtin’s left leg had to be amputated in order to save his life. Unfortunately, by then the cancer had already spread to his lungs and Ashtin is currently being treated with chemotherapy for stage 4 lung cancer.

“Our family was devastated. Hearing that Ashtin had cancer was the worst day of our lives. I have always been very proud of Ashtin and as a single mum I have tried to give him everything. I have also pushed him hard to make a success of himself never expecting something like this that would change our lives forever. However, this experience has taught us a lot and I hope to make other parents aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer. Cancer is becoming more and more common and it is important to be vigilant so that you can get help before it’s too late,” said Vishma.

Mother & Son Raising Awareness

Vishma and Ashtin now volunteer at CANSA, where they present health talks and assist with awareness, education, patient support and fundraising events. “I was not aware of what CANSA was all about and the difference the organization makes in peoples’ lives until we had our own experience with cancer. When I contacted CANSA they were there by my side to help and I appreciate everything they have done. I feel it is now my responsibility to give back.”

Parents should not disregard any sudden weight loss or constant pain that their child might experience. Get the opinion of a medical professional. Don’t take it for granted.”

Making the Most of Every Day

Ashtin says that he now lives for the moment and tries to make the most of each day. “I have also learned that I have a lot to be grateful for. I have the support of my family and friends, and I am grateful just to be alive. I have realized that there is no point in being upset about the things that you cannot change. I accept that I have cancer and that I have to go through some bad days to get better.”

“When I brought Ashtin home after his amputation, I was preparing myself for him to be withdrawn and maybe even depressed, but he was strong and when his friends came to see him, he confidently told them everything that was going on. I was so surprised at his strength. It was one of my proudest moments,” concluded Vishma.

Ashtin is looking forward to fitting a prosthetic leg in the near future and will be returning to school to complete his matric year in 2016.

Queries CANSA:

Our CANSA Newcastle Care Centre can assist with:

  • Patient and family counseling through home visits
  • Education through health talks and public exhibitions
  • Loans medical equipment, e.g. wheelchairs, to patients when there is a need
  • Offer screenings for early detection, prosthesis, and stoma products at a reduced cost
  • Support groups
  • Providing accommodation, meals and transport to oncology treatment centers, for patients and their families when they have to travel out of town

Read more about our CANSA TLC Programme to support children, teens and families affected by cancer…

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