By Maggie Hua, Lifestyle Columnist
The word, cancer, sounds terrifying to all of us as we associate it with pain, scar, fear, sadness, tears, and even death. Moreover, it’s the suffering, the struggling, the unknown, the endless of treatments, the possibility of not enjoying life, and losing our loved ones that are even more devastating. However, it is the reality that many of us are facing right now.
According to Canada.ca’s website, “cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada. An estimated 2 in 5 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and about 1 in 4 will die from cancer. In 2021, an estimated 229,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and 84,600 will die from cancer.”
Cancer is tough, but I had the honour to meet an even tougher cancer fighter, Marijke Nel, 54. Nel is a warrior, a daughter, a coach, a multi-sport athlete, a dirt bike rider, and a human. Wikipedia described her as, “a South Africanborn Canadian tennis player and former women’s international rugby union fly-half from Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She played rugby until 2006 when she moved to Canada to coach tennis. She is the granddaughter of the former South Africa national rugby union team captain, Philip J. Nel.”
Nel is a five-time winner of the Nova Scotia Open women’s tennis tournament and competed for Canada at the 2017 Young Seniors Tennis World Championships in South Africa. Nel, now, is the Technical Director for Tennis Nova Scotia and her students include wheelchair tennis players.
Although Nel’s athletic background helped her tackle her breast cancer in 2018, she was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was just ready to get back on with life and continue riding. Nel had weak moments where she didn’t even know if she could make it. As tough, strong, and brave as a person can be, when facing cancer, anyone can, from time to time, feel hopeless and directionless. But with the support from church friends and those from the tennis and dirt bike communities, Nel fought cancer and came back even stronger. She wanted to provide the same kind of support to others, so she decided to partner with the Canadian Cancer Society. The challenge she undertook was to ride the Corduroy Enduro, “Canada’s toughest race”, a 300-kilometer off road dirt bike race.
When Nel was asked why she chose to do this, Nel said to CBC News, “I don’t think there would be a sport more perfect that would personify the cancer journey, it is such a sport of resilience, where you literally fall down all the time and get yourself into some really tricky and sticky situations.” Nel pushed her limits just like how she pushed herself out of that hospital bed every day while fighting cancer.
The CCS funds ground-breaking cancer research into all types of cancer, offer support services to help people better manage life with cancer, and offer trusted cancer information for all Canadians. As we all know, cancer is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, and Nel is dedicated to raise a total of $50,000 this year. All proceeds from this fundraiser support cancer research and the CCS lodges across Canada for those who have nowhere to stay during cancer treatment sessions. Link to Marijke Nel’s donation page: www.liftcancerfighters.com
Sometimes, it’s your will and attitude that will fight with you through the darkest moments in your life. Never give up and hold on to what you believe. Just like how Nel fought cancer twice in four years.
Photo by Tara Winstead: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blank-white-paper-beside-a-red-ribbon-in-pink-background-8385409/