Antoinette van Staden – Silent opportunity to honour my mom and her fighting spirit

Antoinette van Staden shares why she gives up her time to capture the cover images of Buddies For Life pro bono: her mother, Hanna Boshoff, passed away from metastatic breast cancer.

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Antoinette van Staden (41) lives in Alberton, Gauteng with her husband and their 15-year-old son.

My mom’s diagnosis

My mom’s name was Johanna Boshoff, but everyone called her Hanna. She was diagnosed with hormone-sensitive breast cancer in 2003, at the age of 52, after she found a lump, the size of a pea, in her breast. After a brave, but difficult, 10-year battle with cancer, she passed away on 4 February 2013, two months before her 62nd birthday. My mom was the strongest woman I have ever known; never giving up hope, always smiling and never complaining. My parents were married for 40 years when my mom passed away, a true inspiration to my sister and I.

Accepting the diagnosis as a family

The diagnosis came as a shock, as none of our family members had ever been diagnosed with cancer. No one can prepare a person for those words.

She went for surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and was in remission for around 16 months when the cancer returned. The second diagnosis felt so much worse than the first: her scans were clean, and my mom appeared healthy. It was the last thing we expected. I tried to stay positive and brave on the outside for her sake, but inside I had to deal with the fear of losing my mom.  I took her to treatments and check-ups and it broke my heart to see everything she had to go through. HonestIy, I felt absolutely helpless, wishing so many times that I had the power to take her pain away, and asking why this kind-hearted person had to suffer so much. Her bravery and faith during those 10 years taught me never to give up.

She loved us

We moved her to a hospice three days before she passed away. It was the toughest, but best decision, we, as a family, could have made. The staff treated her with love and dignity. Her last words, that she repeated over and over to my dad, my sister and myself, were: she loved us. My heart still misses her more than words can say. I long for her hugs, her kindness and advice, but at the same time I’m grateful that her pain and suffering is over.

Cover shoots

When I was asked if I would be interested in doing cover photoshoots for Buddies For Life/Oncology Buddies, I didn’t hesitate. I can use the talent and platform that I have been given to pay it forward to something close to my heart.  Each time I do a cover photoshoot, I’m reminded what courage and strength looks like. It’s a silent opportunity to honour my mom and her fighting spirit.

I absolutely love meeting the survivors and the fighters. Their inspiring stories remind me that pain and hardship can be overcome; that family and friends are important; and that their diagnoses don’t stop them from accomplishing great achievements. Each person is motivating and inspiring and I feel honoured to capture their smiles on camera.

Remembering Mom

I have so many fond memories of my mom. No matter where we were, whether it was a public restroom or at home, my mom was always singing. She loved reading and I was fortunate enough to share many great stories with her. During my maternity leave, before my son was born, we spent our days in the garden reading. We didn’t have to talk non-stop, as we both knew that being together was soothing to our souls. She taught me to be humble, to help and care for others and to never give up hope.

Her biggest wish was to see her three grandsons become teenagers. Although her wish didn’t come true, I know she is looking down on them with pride and love.

My life changed when she passed away, but my love for her will never fade. This article is another way to honour you, Mom. Thank you for the example you set for us; the love you gave us and the memories with which you left us.

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words.

MEET THE EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words.
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