Stand Alone Women

A Tribute to the ‘Stand Alone Women’ in my life – Women’s Month August 2020

Stand-alone – adjective – intended, designed, or able to be used or to function alone or separately, not connected to or requiring connection to something else: self-contained. Https://

Every year in August, we pay tribute to women. It is a very noble gesture, but this should not only be the focus one month in a calendar year. I have a large circle of loyal friends. Most of us have been part of one another’s lives for many years. Some of us have known each other since 1975, when we all wrote Grade twelve exams together. Others I got to know really well through church activities over the last thirty odd years and others are beautiful acquaintances from other areas of my life.

It has amazed me all these years just how many of the women in my friendship circle are ‘stand alone women’. Many are divorced or widowed and some have no family members to support them either. I worked with many seniors during my years at a retirement village and there, this was the case as well. These women were from varying occupations and many achieved marvelous things during their younger and latter years. Doris grew up in London and joined the army to fight a war. Sheila never married, so that she could look after her ailing parents and did so until they passed on. Victoria hid ‘enemies of the state’ in her house during the apartheid years and brazenly took sandwiches and coffee to the police members who continually watched her house. Elizabeth suffered tremendous trauma as a young child and struggled with depression. Many other women there fought cancers and illnesses bravely, without the support of family members or spouses.

In my closer circle of friends, divorce has all but crippled some of them. Children have abandoned a few of my girlfriends, or moved across the seas to start new lives. Others have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They now live in hope of a new opportunity when we return to a different kind of normal in the future.

These ‘stand alone women’ are my best friends. We have stood together through every circumstance imaginable and will be there for one another for many years in the future. I have learnt so much from these women over the decades, as they show up every time, no matter what life throws at them. The strong bond of friendship has bound us together and we have created a new family in the absence of blood families.

I salute the Abigail’s, the Mary’s, the Victoria’s, the Sheila’s, the Julia’s, the Natalie’s, and all the unknown women who stand alone. They raise their children, hold down stressful occupations, and fill the shoes of two parents, all in a day’s work. I have always maintained that the bravest women in the world are those who just get up and face the world on their own every day.

The Wonder of Words

During the months and weeks of lock down, I have come to appreciate the value of words. We find ourselves separated from friends and loved ones, and communication is quite different now. Thankfully, we have various media platforms to use to stay in touch with those we love and care about, but it is not the same as being in the same room or space as that of a friend or a relative. I found myself choosing my words carefully while sending messages during this time, as many of my acquaintances and family are struggling with the new norms.

Then of course, when ‘the mask’ became a new member of our daily attire, this took communication to a completely new level. All our emotions remain hidden under those three layers of prescribed fabric. I love to smile at people and soon realized that no one can see that act of friendliness anymore. I know that our eyes are the windows to our souls, but without our lips and our words, do we even know what people are feeling or thinking during this difficult time.

This got me thinking…, imagine a world without words. I cannot even begin to think how lonely we would be if we did not have this form of communication, or how crazy the world would be without it.

Words are phenomenal and beautiful. Words strung together create stories, books, movie scripts, contracts, songs, poetry and vows, among others. Hallmark cards would not exist without the power of words to express feelings and wishes. I am reminded as I write this, that I need to choose my words wisely and appreciate the gift of alphabets, languages and wondrous words. I cannot fathom a world without communication during this very different time of isolation and lock down. Words are incredibly important right now as we have the ability to be destructive or uplifting. May God help us to be aware of what we say and be sensitive to the needs of others. God bless you all.

Maintaining Happiness

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

As the road opens up

On a recent trip to Cape Town, I was completely mesmerized by the beauty of a South African road trip. We travelled on ruler straight sections of road, interspersed with segments that wound themselves past endless electricity pylons and numerous rusty windmills. The scenery included various smaller mountain ranges resembling gnomes’ faces covered in grotesque warts. The overwhelming shades of colour that surrounded us all the way, brought back memories of a box of wax crayons missing all the bright colours. Dull shades of browns, greens and beiges painted the landscape most of the way.

Church steeples elegantly towered over rustic buildings in farming towns and the recent drought left tragic ruins in its wake. Empty schools longed for happy young voices and bright new coats of paint. Patient donkeys loyally transported goods and people from one dusty town to another. Years of hard labour etched on the faces of their owners. Life in these rural towns is slow and without modern amenities.


Yet more mountain rages came into view. With a little imagination, I saw women’s breasts, an elephant lying on his stomach and cakes eagerly waiting to be layered with icing. When boredom set in, I counted windmills and as my concentration peaked, sacred graveyards came into view. The gravestones made me wonder about rival families and questions of loss and sadness, and the survival of man.

As the journey continued, green and white information signs flashed by, recalling many chapters of our South African history. Towns and places named by Dutch, German, French and British settlers, gave rise to areas called Welgegund, Platdoorns, Renosterkop, Lemoenfontein, Loxton, Carnarvon and Franschhoek. The little town of Leeu-Gamka in the Karoo, established in 1879 is 355 kilometers northeast of Cape Town and has an interesting history. The name originated from the junction of the Leeu and Gamka Rivers and both translate to ‘Lion’ in Afrikaans and IXam, a Khoisan language of South Africa. This little town came into being when the Prime Minister for the Cape Government Railways’ chose a western railway line from Cape Town, to run to the meeting point of the Leeu and Gamka Rivers. A small town grew around the station and in 1896, a church and a school opened. A hotel was added in 1898. Originally known as ‘Fraserburg Road’, this siding was eventually renamed ‘Leeu-Gamka’ in 1950. I am always fascinated by how our towns got their names in South Africa.

Our journey continued to the smooth sounds of Amy Grant and Ronan Keating…. country sounds and saxophone solos. Some of my favourite music accompanied me and lifted my spirits as we negotiated the long road and adhered to warning signs as they flashed by. These signs got me thinking. They are all there for a reason, for the safety of the road users. How often do we sense warnings in our journey through life? Do we take heed and rethink our future choices or simply ignore them and face the consequences? I often wish that I had taken notice of all the warnings that flashed past along my journey… but then; perhaps I wouldn’t have learnt my valuable lessons along the way.

This relaxing road trip reminded me of all the things that I have to be grateful for and that even when things look bleak and impossible in my little world and in my country, there is ALWAYS new hope and opportunity around the next bend in the road. Sometimes the road is straight as a ruler or winding around tight bends but there is always something amazing there to catch my eye.

Enjoy your journey…..

Photographs courtesy of Google Images



My Room with One Hundred Hearts

My room with one hundred hearts image

Over the past month and a few weeks I have had the privilege to nestle and heal in a peaceful and comforting haven. Lovingly prepared by members of my family with beautiful images of Paris and the Eiffel Tower (my ultimate dream destination); plumped up cushions emblazoned with French words and artistic designs; motivational quotes and words; a well stocked little fridge; beautifully decorated tins with delightful eats in their bellies; pastel coloured coffee mugs adorned with birds on a curved branches; numerous fragrant candles; a pure white clad bed and all this surrounded by one hundred hearts in a myriad of designs and sizes…… How can I possibly not heal in this ideal environment?

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Looking Good to Feel Better

Image of cosmetics

About ten days ago I visited my assigned clinic at the hospital for my regular weekly visit to a doctor and was pleasantly surprised to be invited to a makeup class. Cancer patients undergoing treatment at various hospitals throughout South Africa are treated to makeup and skincare classes by many volunteers from an organization called ‘look good feel better’.* I had visited the Internet one evening in search of various support groups for cancer sufferers and came across this very group. Imagine my joy when I was included in one of these wonderful pampering sessions.

What caught me totally by surprise was my emotional response to this huge gift. I am still baffled by the tears that prickled at the back of my eyes on the day and the flow of tears every time I share this story with anyone…. Was it because I was presented with something so normal out of my daily routine of radiation machines and unpleasant side effects from various other treatments? Or was it perhaps just because this was always my role over the years, to pamper others and now it was simply my turn to be blessed? This walk of mine has certainly made a mixed salad of my emotions and daily norms….

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Those Bags

Fight like a girl imageOh my goodness, what a week! No one else’s testimony to fighting these dreaded cells could have prepared me for my own walk these past few days. I approached last Wednesday with certain trepidation and bravely faced all those bags filled with various medications to finally start my healing journey. My one real fear was that the nurse would not be able to find a decent vein anywhere, as he had jokingly commented the previous time, when blood samples needed to be drawn, that I must have sold my veins to the highest bidder! I really do have veins, but they are usually hidden somewhere and causes me much anxiety when I need to have any blood taken.

Thankfully this time around, the veins in my hand proved to be absolutely suitable for all those bags that needed to pass through my body. First there was a liter of potassium and magnesium mixture to prevent cramping during treatment; followed by 250ml of anti-nausea medicine and a second 250ml of medication that I honestly cannot remember anymore. Following hot on the heels of all of this was ‘the bag’ of another liter of the dreaded chemotherapy. This very unsuspicious looking liquid was the pre-amble to five days of absolute wretchedness. Oh yes, and finally another 250ml of a diuretic, which caused its own set of anxiety to get home in time…..

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Seasonal Changes

tree_landscape_bw_cI love seasonal changes. Amazingly every aspect of nature adheres to the rules of the season and sheds leaves or produces new buds timeously. Even as a child I enjoyed trudging through piles of crunchy brown and yellow leaves when autumn came knocking on the door. During September, my birth month, the appearance of the first blossoms always signals the arrival of new growth, new green shoots and the promise of fresh new beginnings. Last week as I made my way to work in the early morning I couldn’t help noticing a huge pile of curled dry leaves that had floated on to the pavement right on cue with the crisp temperatures that denoted an imminent new season. The bright rays of sunshine that filtered through the almost naked trees added certain warmth to the cooler start to the day.

In March last year I was privileged to accompany a group of seniors to the Magoebaskloof area and to pay a visit to the ‘Lightning Tree’ at Kings Walden Gardens. This majestic tree towers confidently over the whole Limpopo valley and the impressive Drakensburg Mountains and is a stark reminder to visitors that once again, nature is a force to be reckoned with.

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Perfect Timing!

Bees in a flower

Once again this week I was reminded that many aspects of my life I simply cannot control. My treatment was due to start in 2 days time, but last Thursday I received a simple cell phone message apologizing for another week’s delay. I was devastated to say the least and gravely concerned about the impact that this delay would have on all our family’s plans. As disappointment made way for general groans and new plans, I was reminded by a work colleague that you do not mess with God’s plans and His timing. I promptly picked my lip up off the ground and realized that our lives are indeed controlled by a gracious and powerful Upper Hand.

Many different thoughts raced through my mind as I hastily tried to analyze the situation and make some sense of the cause of this new delay…. Had the hospital indeed run out of chemotherapy medication as had been reported on the news the previous night or was it really true that the simulator machine that would be the deliverer of my radiation was not ready for me yet, as the kind doctor had reported? Perhaps this is truly for my own protection….. perhaps someone else needs the chemotherapy more than I do this week, someone who has already started treatment and needs my bag of medicine to beat the heck out of their invader cells……  perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…. Eventually I gracefully surrendered to the fact that life is life and that I might never really get to the bottom of the reason for this delay in my present situation.

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Over the last 2 months, various suitcases have accompanied me to and from family and hospitals as my life takes on a new norm of its own. I own a lot of various weekend bags and suitcases and these have pretty much taken their turn in meeting my varying space needs as I ventured along my new journey of medicals facilities and family homes. I battle to travel lightly, but am aiming to be an expert when this journey nears completion.

These travel bags are literally placed all over my ‘happy space’ at the moment, gently reminding me that the life as I knew it now has a mind of its own and best I keep up with the pace….. Within the next week to ten days I will enter an unknown tunnel of grueling treatments and unfamiliar side effects to bust this unwelcome invader out of my body! Yes, as you have guessed, my bags (lots of them!!)  are standing with their mouths wide open, waiting for me to fill them up with sufficient clothing and necessities to last for the duration of my six to seven weeks of medical warfare.

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