On the 3rd of August 2014 a friend of mine’s daughter received a unit of blood and a bag of platelets. She was 19 and like her sister had Fanconi Anemia.
This inherited anemia leads to bone marrow failure. It is mainly a blood disease but affects all systems of the body. As a result of the disease, developing cancer is extremely likely. Essentially the body cannot properly make red blood cells and platelets and therefore transfusions are needed – to provide life.
When a couple both have a gene which can cause Fanconi Anemia, their children have a one in four chance of developing the disease.
My friend had three children – two with Fanconi.
She had three children.
Now she has one.
I have previously written about Hesmé and the impact her life and death made on me (read it here) but this post is about her sister – about Annemé.
When Hesmé passed away on the 22nd of July 2014 her sister was next door – fighting the same battle, knowing her outcome was likely to be the same. But she didn’t give up. She fought like a Rossouw – tooth and nail, and with a smile.
My daughter Emma passed away on the 13th of September 2014 and for the first time I understood what San-Marie had felt when Hesmé died. Empty, angry, hurt, overwhelmed… finished. But San-Marie wasn’t finished – she had to carry on fighting with Annemé. At Emma’s funeral we played a recording of me reading Bags of Life (my original post) and I will never forget the way that Annemé cried out. In the moment I could feel how deep her pain was and how hard it was to continue to fight.
But fight she did. I’m sure there were days she wanted to give up, I’m sure that the pain often got too much and that the burden of surviving her younger sister was hard to carry, but she just kept going. She kept living – even when taking her next breath was a challenge.
The week leading up to the 26th of April 2015 Annemé was again hospitalised – she had been struggling on and off with sores on her legs. But I sensed this time was different. Annemé wasn’t going to go home with her family again. On the 25th she was diagnosed with leukaemia and on the 26th she joined her sister in the early hours of the morning.
There is nothing you can say to a mom who has had to bury a child, but two children?! How San-Marie, Seun and Francois continue I don’t know… But they do.
They continue to create awareness about blood donation and childhood cancer, they continue to remember, they continue to live, even when living hurts the most…
And I am proud to know them. Proud to have been part of their daughter’s lives, to be able to tell their stories, proud to be their friend.
Proud to walk alongside them in continuing…
Rest in peace Annemé.
“And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand”