When I was born in 1980 I had jewelry on. That was in 1980 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The colorful gems with their brilliant charm has always mesmerized me. As a child I would dream of making beautiful jewelry for a living. And in 2007 this dream came true. A dream that was realized in the midst of a nightmare that was to become my reality.
In 1993 I was diagnosed with a very malignant brain tumor. Doctors gave me 6 months to live, rendering the tumor inoperable. My faith and the support of my family and friends carried me through this nightmare. Three successful brain operations and a lengthy series of radiation treatments and I was healed. By the grace of God and my unwavering faith in a happy fairytale ending. Some say wearing red lipstick on a bad hair day lifts their spirits, but to me it was my beads that made me feel alive. That’s why each bead has a life and spirit of its own.
Even though I had lost all my hair and had bald patches all over my scalp(from the radiation) , my spirit soared each day I got extra on this earth. I’d wear my beads together with a colorful bandana every day. This little teenager with the monstrous and potentially incurable disease felt beautiful, no hair, nausea, sores in my mouth and all the negative effects of the radiation couldn’t stunt my enthusiasm for life. For I got another chance on life. Six years of agonizing pain, operations, teasing, stares, gut wrenching fears of dying so young and doctors pessimism and treatments paid off. I was finally cured from brain cancer. The choroid Plexus carcinoma tumor in my brain had disappeared overnight. I was blessed beyond belief and human understanding. There was no logical explanation how the tumor that was once there and an obvious killer, was just gone. I was called a miracle and doctors are still discussing my case today. I could start living fearlessly again.
And so I did! For 11 years I lived a fairly normal life. Graduated at a university and started working as a news reporter at a daily national newspaper in South Africa. It was all very peachy, until 2007 when another checkup scan confirmed the worst. Another kind of cancer, that has no relation to the choroid plexus carcinoma, had manifested itself in my spinal fluid. It was cancerous and an operation was inevitable. Again I was operated three times to remove the cancerous tumor. And this is how my dream originated. My friends started bringing me beads in the hospital to keep myself busy. I wasn’t an expert and have never really tried stringing the beads before, but since I was going to be in hospital for a long time, I gave it my best shot. The first ever necklace I made immediately caught everyone’s eye. A nurse came into my room one day. I was wearing the beaded necklace with handmade polymer clay roses I made. She gushed over it and I was surprised when she offered to buy it off my neck!
“Your beads are a reminder that there is always hope in the face of adversity.”
I was stunned. I gave her the neckpiece, not being sure if she was serious about liking it that much or if she just felt sorry for me! A day later the same nurse returned with a list of her friends who also wanted the same necklace. I couldn’t believe it. After this the orders started flowing in steadily. I was constantly beading, totally absorbed by the glorious colors, designs, textures and the way it looked so different every time I looked at it. I was hooked! Beading has helped me to recover from the depression I am also coping with. It’s not always easy to display a brave, positive front to the world when your life is constantly threatened and under scrutiny.
When I bead I lose track of time, something I wasn’t given much off. During beading I could conjure up magnificent creations that made me smile and it was only a bonus that I could actually reap the rewards in the form of money and compliments. I bead because it heals me from within.
I believe a life without great expectations (my next design or creation), hope (that someone out there might love what I made and actually consider spending a bit of their hard earned cash buying it, and something to look forward to (the start of a new day, new ideas for jewelry, is no life at all. God has sent me angels along my path of recovery. I have been in remission from my cancer for about a year now. I have lost many bodily functions, I’m paralyzed from my waist down, yet I can still walk because the nerves to my legs are unscathed-see, there's ALWAYS a silver lining on my cloud! and its hard to overcome them, but I’m alive and living the best life I possibly can, that to me is what matters. I laugh a lot and to me there is ALWAYS something to look forward to, even if it is as small as taking out my stitches (so I can bath again) or drinking a cup of coffee! My parents have created a bank account, the Elsje Neethling Miracle fund, in my name to help me pay off my medical expenses.
The proceeds of all my beads go towards paying off the medical bills. So while beading is healing my spirit, purchasing a piece of my hip*e jewelry will help to pay off the many medical and alternative methods we have tried to heal my body from cancer. I recently received an anonymous gift voucher from a health spa in the mail. In it, the generous giver wrote: "Elsje, every time I wear one of your creations I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. Because I’m wearing a part of an angel. It was an absolute honor to meet you a year ago and I will carry the beautiful spirit you radiate with me forever. Your beads are a reminder that there is always hope in the face of adversity. And that, no matter what, life is beautiful."
And my own quote: "I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t always shine for me."
Terminally ill and disadvantaged patients from South Africa are now, on a daily basis creating their own amazing jewelery and other beaded creations, while waiting for their chemotherapy and radiation sessions at the national hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa. these women and girls' stories astound as much as their will to live and determination to beat(d) cancer in the most dire circumstances, inspires.
Teaching these patients new skills to empower themselves is Hip*e's I BEAD Cancer's main goal. Thanks to your purchases these ladies are provided with the tools and beads to build a brighter future for themselves.
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