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By Bruce Fraser | Jan 25, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THOUGH she is a young woman of 18 Lucy Lekgethe has the looks and body of a 12-year-old.

THOUGH she is a young woman of 18 Lucy Lekgethe has the looks and body of a 12-year-old.

Three years of intense chemotherapy sessions and a bone marrow transplant late last year have left her small frame emaciated.

Though it's warm outside she is dressed in a thick blue polo neck jumper and a bright pink tracksuit. Still, you can't help but notice the bones protruding underneath her clothing.

Her eyes, though, shine brightly ... full of hope.

"One day I would like to study medicine," she says in little more than a whisper.

Though desperately ill with cancer, Lucy still takes pride in her appearance. Her nails are neatly painted in a soft blue colour.

On the day I visit Lucy at the oncology unit at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital her spirits are up since she, along with other children in the ward, have just had a visit from Miss South Africa, Nicole Flint, as part of the Reach For A Dream Foundation initiative to make terminally ill children's dreams come true.

Sitting next to each other Lucy and Nicole chat, laugh and giggle like naughty schoolgirls .

Other children in the ward clamour for a spot on the sofa with the pretty Flint.

One young boy, his leg amputated above the knee and attached to a movable drip, races up and down the corridor while other children quietly go about doing puzzles in a corner of the room.

"In December 2007 I discovered lumps under my armpits and in my neck," Lucy explains.

"I went to the doctor who recommended I come here to Chris Hani-Baragwanath."

Lucy's mother is late and her father abandoned the family long ago. She shares a tiny one-bedroom home with nine others - her aunt and uncle heading the household.

"The pastor from our church in Westonaria brought me to the hospital and they carried out various tests on me," she says matter-of-factly. "The blood tests didn't show anything wrong but then they carried out a biopsy. It was then that I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"I accepted it straight away as something I will have to live with for the rest of my life."

When Lucy speaks she doesn't like singling herself out. She tries to avoid "me" or "I" ... she speaks about "us".

"Are the nurses like a mother to you?" I ask her.

"No," she replies. "They are a mother to all of us here."

Sister Sizakele Mngomezulu is one of the dedicated nurses working in the oncology unit.

"Lucy's first chemo treatment went well but the cancer quickly returned," explains Mngomezulu.

"We've tried stem cell treatment but at this stage it is not working.

"It's God's will how your body responds to the treatment," she says.

At age 18, Lucy knows what is happening but her spirit is fierce. Psychologists provide intensive counselling and it is one way of warding off depression that could so easily affect a person of her age and in her condition.

The days spent in the ward can be tedious. Whereas her peers are out partying, she spends her days receiving treatment.

"It's not nice to stay here ... it's boring and the food is horrible."

Her friends from back home still keep in touch with her via cellphone, and it's obvious she relishes contact with the world outside the walls of the hospital.

At school she used to be active in athletics and it's one sport she would again like to get involved in ... maybe one day.

"I'm strong, but not that strong," she says.

Her days at the hospital are pretty strict.

She wakes up at 5am for something to eat and then goes back to sleep at 7am when it is time to bath. Her day is spent watching TV and playing computer games in-between doses of chemotherapy.

Lights out at around 8pm means she watches her favourite programme, Generations, the next morning.

Lucy was upbeat about going home that afternoon after several weeks in hospital.

And what's the first thing you would like to do when you get home?

"I like to have something nice to eat and then I sleep," she says.

Do you have a bed, I ask. "No, I sleep on the floor."


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