A Hout Bay father is on a mission to help his 17-year-old daughter get back to full health after having their world turned upside down last month.
Martin Osner’s daughter, Leeanne, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that attacks the body’s immune system.
Early in December, Leeanne, a pupil at Camps Bay High, had seen a doctor after she noticed a rash and a gland in her neck, and started suffering chronic tiredness. “(It) didn’t feel right,” she said.
December 7 is a day the family won’t ever forget.
“That was the day we received the dreaded call from Leeanne’s GP, that she wanted to see us immediately,” said Mr Osner.
“She said that results of tests she had conducted on Leeanne were inconclusive but suspicious enough to suspect cancer.”
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Mr Osner, who is self-employed and and had been badly affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, which resulted in the cancellation of their medical insurance.
“Never did I for one minute conceive that one of our children would fall desperately ill,” he said.
However, he could not stall and was being pressured by their GP and a family friend to get conclusive diagnosis, which launched the next chapter of problems for the Osner family.
The rising number of Covid-19 infections was not helping their cause, as they were turned away from Groote Schuur and referred to Victoria Hospital.
“After a six-hour wait at Victoria Hospital, Leeanne got to see a physician who told us to come back the following week for CT scans,” Ms Osner said.
The morning of Leeanne’s CT scan appointment and there had been yet another spike in the number of infections at the Victoria Hospital, making Mr Osner think twice about taking Leeanne into a hot spot.
“I just could not take Leeanne there with the thought that she could possibly contract Covid-19 on top of cancer,” he said.
“I was in a dark hole and thought as a family, we were facing this storm on our own.”
Mr Osner had received offers to start crowdfunding campaigns, but at first, turned down the opportunities, afraid to disclose the fact that they could not afford health care. However, he soon decided to put his pride in his pocket and gave the suggestions the green light.
Meanwhile, he contacted some close friends and managed to scrape together what he could to at least get the CAT scans and the operation for tissue biopsy done at the Constantiaberg Mediclinic.
“Incredibly, within a day, sufficient donations came in and we were able to go ahead with procedure,” he said.
Mr Osner said they planned to do all the necessary pre-treatment at the private hospital before approaching the oncology unit at the Groote Schuur Hospital for assistance at a later stage. They had secured an appointment, but would have to wait til after Christmas.
In the meantime, they consulted with the resident hermatologist at Constantiaberg, who was the bearer of further bad news.
“The severity of the condition hit home as he said the cancer was at Stage III,” Mr Osner said.
The doctor also told them that while Groote Schuur Hospital was outstanding, the state facility would only be able to start treating Leeanne mid-January or even later.
Cancer in three areas of Leeanne’s body – the upper chest; her lungs and stomach – concerned doctors.
The family now await the results of the bone marrow biopsy she underwent on January 7. She also received her first round of chemotherapy the same day.
Leeanne was in now need of a port, which is to be placed in her chest, and through which medication will be fed.
Mr Osner said after consulting with the doctor who carried out her biopsy, they were able to get Leeanne under the knife the following day, with the doctor agreeing to do the procedure at a discounted rate to assist the family.
Thanks to the generosity of friends, family and members of the public, the Osners raised enough to go ahead with a bone marrow biopsy, the operation for her port and her first 12 session of chemotherapy, over the next six months.
With his daughter’s road to full recovery only beginning, Mr Osner gave thanks to all who had helped his family, saying he was “overwhelmed with emotion and eternally grateful”.
“On behalf of my family, we cannot express our gratitude enough to every single person who has helped us thus far, financially – from the dollar donation to generous blessings we have received, empathy, encouragement and kind words and most importantly prayer,” Mr Osner said.
For more information or regular updates on Leeanne’s journey, and to find out how you can contribute towards the Love 4 Lee campaign, which will ensure that Leeanne can complete the treatment she needs, click here.