Dries Els vanquishes myeloid leukemia
The doctor enters the consulting room, his face etched with seriousness. The news is bad. You have cancer.
A dark cloud surrounds you, as shock sets in. This can’t be happening. Cancer only happens to other people. But has the doctor handed you a death warrant? Is there a glimmer of hope in the darkness which threatens to engulf you?
When Dries Els was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, he was not prepared for the diagnosis.
“I am fortunate as I am involved in sports. I noticed whilst playing golf (as I would never use a golf cart but rather opt to walk) that I was getting fatigued quite quickly.”
Concerned about the sudden onslaught of tiredness, Dries went to his doctor. It was then that he received the diagnosis. “It was the biggest shock of my life. In fact, when I got the message it was like I received a death penalty.”
Dries now had to do overcome one of the most difficult tasks he had ever faced, Sharing the news with his family, which proved to be a painful and heart wrenching challenge, which left his children in a state of shock. “It was a huge shock for them. One of the most difficult things was telling my son, who was in boarding school at the time and writing exams.”
However, the shock was short-lived. The time for battle had begun. Dries and his family would not allow the myeloid leukemia to be victorious. The Captain made a stand and began his fight.
Myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterised by the rapid growth of abnormal cells which build up in the bone marrow and blood. It then interferes with normal blood cells. Symptoms include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bleeding and bruising, and increased risk of infection.
Dries also explained that this form of cancer caused the white blood cells to eat the red blood cells, which fed the body with oxygen. “It was a long and painful journey, which involved a lot of prayer and treatment,” Dries said.
During his battle with myeloid leukemia, Dries said he learned a lot about the importance of faith, family and medical treatment.
“The medical costs are expensive, which is why having medical aid is so important. At the stage when I was first diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, blood cancer was not classified as chronic in South Africa. I registered to an outside organisation, which contacted me and assisted me with the medication.”
Fortunately, the South African medical board changed its views and Dries’s medical aid was able to cover the treatment. Undergoing the necessary treatment, Dries managed to rise above his diagnosis and claim victory.
“People need to know there is hope. Through the technological advancements in the medical world, cancer is not the death sentence it once was. I can also thank God, because all thanks go to Him, for helping me through it all. My doctor in Bloemfontein, Frida Pienaar, played an instrumental part in my health improving.”
While the grace of God and the medical world played instrumental roles in him recovering, Dries said his family played a major role in him fighting against cancer.
“I received overwhelming support from family and friends. I found that it is the support from loved ones that keeps you going. At one stage, I asked my wife if I was going to live and ever play golf again. She said I would if I just believed, which I did through the support and love I received.” Dries emphasised.
Concluding, Dries encourages Newcastillians to go for regular check-ups at their doctors, have their blood cancer count done every year and to never lose hope nor faith in the face of darkness. As through early detection, faith and hope, one can fight and most importantly beat cancer.
Dries is a true Newcastillian and we salute you sir, long live the Captain!