The Journey by Beryl Odendaal

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THE JOURNEY BY BERYL ODENDAAL 1 THE BEGINNING I was just an ordinary housewife and lived with my husband Joos on a dairy farm on the outskirts of Kadoma, a small town in Zimbabwe. We were so happy and content with not a worry in the world. We had the children visiting on the weekends, took holidays when we could and enjoying our lives just the way they were. We had both lost our spouses from previous marriages, so this was a second marriage for us both. We knew just how short life can be and
  1 THE  JOURNEYBYBERYL ODENDAAL    2 THE BEGINNING  I was just an ordinary housewife and lived with my husband Joos on a dairy farm on theoutskirts of Kadoma, a small town in Zimbabwe. We were so happy and content with not aworry in the world. We had the children visiting onthe weekends, took holidays when we could andenjoying our lives just the way they were. We had both lost our spouses from previous marriages, sothis was a second marriage for us both. We knew just how short life can be and we married withinfive months of meeting one another on 20th May1989. This is what one would call a fairytaleromance. Our future seemed secure and we lived inthe moment and were so happy and content.Somehow we knew that the Lord had brought ustogether for special reasons.Life was good to us in those days. Financially we were coping well and there was not muchto worry about apart from having a bad rainy season which resulted in problems with cropson the field. Joos’ death on the 2nd May 1998 , two weeks before we would celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary, left me devastated and in a state of shock. But with the support of my wonderful family I managed to get through the trauma and started to re-build my lifewithout him. BEITBRIDGE  Looking back I think its fare to say I complained of stomach problems for years. At the timehowever, this did not interfere with my daily life and I assumed there was no cause for concern. For a number of years doctors treated me for  “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (IBS). In 2006 I was offered a caring job in Beit Bridge and I thought the change would do me good.I also thought that perhaps moving out of my comfort zone would be a good thing. I left the job I was doing at that time as thesecretary of Eiffel Flats Primary School in Kadoma and settled intomy new surroundings.This new challenge was very demanding, looking after an elderly gentleman who had Alzheimer’s disease. The job entailed my constant attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and allowed melittle rest. In spite of this I enjoyed the job tremendously. Workingwith this amazing family was truly a blessing in many ways and I  3was always treated as a member of the family. We had some very touching incidents that willremain etched in my memory forever.One such incident occurred when I had to fly with him to a little coastal town about twohours from Joburg to enable him to visit with his sister. They had not seen one another for quite some time. Keep in mind the fact that I had never traveled by air before and consequently had a fear of flying. Also keep in mind as the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the patient becomes more and more forgetful and sometimes a little aggressive andargumentative. Benji was in a wheelchair at the time and to get him settled into the aircraftwas quite a mission. He insisted on finding his own seat and did not want to sit where he wastold to. However, I managed to persuade him to sit where he was meant to and the flightcommenced. He also had it in his mind that I would lose important documents I was carrying(passports, return air tickets etc) and insisted on keeping them himself. Obviously I could notallow him to do this and in the process of trying to get to the hand luggage above us, Imanaged to spill a whole glass of coke on the young gentleman in the row in front of us. Theentire incident was very amusing to the other passengers as you can imagine. Fortunately, Idid not have much time to dwell on my own fear of flying during the flight. When we arrivedat our destination we had to go to the rear of the plane where a lift would take us down to theground with Benji in his wheelchair. This was absolutely hair-raising and a few times I fearedhe would jump to the ground. A flight attendant below us was pleading with him to staywhere he was. I was absolutely beside myself by this time trying to calm him down. This was just one of the many interesting experiences we had together. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the patient often begins to live in the past. I found myself going on imaginary journeys with him and his family and I would always find the amusing side tothe journey which helped us all cope with the changes that were taking place in him. Therewere sad times as well, times when he would quickly deteriorate and I would wonder howsuch a wonderful man with such caring ways could suddenly change into a complete stranger. Such is the road with Alzheimer’s disease.   NEW SURROUNDINGS  My health did start to take strain and I began to get extremely tired to the point of near collapse. On one of my visits to Bulawayo, doctors discovered a growth on my Thyroid and Iwas advised to have this removed as soon as possible. I left the job in Beit Bridge andreturned to my daughter Lindsy and son in-law JJ who were living in Bulawayo. Anoperation was scheduled and performed where the Surgeon removed the Thyroid. After a brief stay in hospital I was discharged and was told a specimen had been sent to Harare for testing. After waiting ten stressful days for the results to come back, we were told to my greatrelief that the growth was benign. I mention the Thyroid as it is a gland which controlshormone production and could well have had a bearing on future events, although this hasnever been confirmed.  4I recovered fully from this trauma and decided to settle downin Bulawayo. I got a full time job and rented a cottage from aretired couple, Willie and Ingrid Crowcamp who later becomemy dearest friends and remain so to this day. I was also not far from my daughter Lindsy and son in law JJ who wereextremely good to me. I was very content in my job and onceagain life was good. FAMILY INTERVENTION  My stomach problems continued and got more frequent as the days went by, I would findmyself tiring very quickly and housekeeping in my little cottage became more and moredifficult. Doctors again passed it off as IBS and stress. In March2010 my two daughters Jackie and Lindsy decided to step in andasked my GP to refer me to a specialist.They were concerned that my healthcondition was deteriorating and they feltthe need to get to the bottom of whatwas going on within my body. The twogirls contacted my other daughter Wahnita, who with her husband Roband my two grandsons Guy and Travis now lived in Perth,Australia. Lindsy and Jackie promised to keep them updated as to the outcome of the specialists’ findings.  Lindsy now took total charge as Jackie was living in Kadoma and could not be in Bulawayoall the time. I would like to add at this point that the girls had been pressurizing me for a longtime to get a second opinion. I think I was hoping the symptoms would disappear because atthe back of my mind there was always the fear of  “what if they find something I don’t want to hear  about” . It was now thankfully out of my hands as I let the kids make the decisions.We have always been a very close family and I just knew whatever the outcome, I wouldhave their love and support to help me through as always. FEELING LIKE A LAB RAT  After having scans done of my pelvic area through my local GP, it seemed a mass wasdetected. Lindsy made an appointment with the Specialist/Surgeon as soon as we found outand he advised hospitalization immediately to begin his investigation. And so the gruelingtests began.When Jackie arrived in Bulawayo on the 8th March 2010, I was already in hospital wherethey were preparing me for all the tests that would be necessary for the surgeon to know what
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