Bella chasing something in the dark

Sitting in the dark, loadshedding. Something South Africans know all too well

I asked ChatGPT to explain loadshedding:

Loadshedding is when the electricity company intentionally cuts off power to certain areas for a period of time. They do this because there isn’t enough electricity available to meet the demand from all the people using it. So they turn off the power in different areas at different times to balance things out.

The electricity company usually plans ahead and lets people know when and where the power cuts will happen, so they can prepare. Loadshedding can be inconvenient because it means you won’t have electricity for a while, which can affect things like using appliances, lights, or charging devices.

Loadshedding is done temporarily until the electricity supply and demand can be balanced better or improved. The aim is to find ways to generate more power and upgrade the infrastructure so that there is enough electricity for everyone without the need for power cuts.

Thank goodness for a fireplace and red wine. It surely makes loadshedding more bearable

‘‘Twas the night before Oceans”

I’m brimming with excitement this afternoon. Only one more sleep until I do my tenth Two Oceans Half Marathon, and with some luck, I’ll have a permanent “blue number” this time tomorrow. The seemingly elusive blue number is a loyalty number – for runners that have partaken in Oceans ten years or more, you become part of the blue number club. You keep that number forever and you receive a little bit of preferential treatment when you enter the race e.g. there’s a special queue at race registration for blue number holders, and a special seating area just for them 🤩

Just like the PhD was a goal, it’s been a goal of mine to get a blue number, ever since I spotted the seating area in 2012 and asked Jason (my brother) about it. He pointed out that we plebs were not worthy, but that sealed the deal for me. I had to have it. So I put in the work. Jason got his blue number in 2018, and I could feel it was so close ….so palpable in 2019. But then we know Covid struck and there was no Oceans in 2020 and 2021.

The reason why I said with luck is because I would have gotten my blue number last year had I not been injured. But que sera sera, here we are now, and we hope for the best (injury free run) tomorrow.

So running tomorrow as a cancer survivor, also following rehab of pubic symphysis dysfunction makes the goal sweeter because it was tougher than expected. And to add even more sweetness, via my oncologist…. The Best, the Most Amazing Dr Lizanne Langenhoven, I got to meet the Olympic Silver Medalist Elana Meyer – extraordinary phenomenal female runner

Lizanne sponsored myself and three other ladies with pink shirts and other goodies. She tasked one of her other patients, Adele Niemand, a SA netball player to get us matching kit. It is through Adele that we meet Elana at a private function in Stellenbosch on Thursday. What a treat.

So yes I’m ready. My feet are up in anticipation of tomorrow. I’m drinking water to hydrate, and I’ll take a nice relaxing bubble bath later. Clothes packed out. Come on Oceans, bring it. Ke nako. I’m ready 😁🏃🏾‍♀️

Happy Cancerversary to me

On April 11th last year, my doctor delivered the news. Just two weeks prior, I had gone for a mammogram, and a week before that, I had a biopsy. It was confirmed on a Monday morning – I had cancer. Now, a year later, I find myself feeling incredibly grateful. Despite the rough ride, there’s a sense of happiness bubbling beneath the surface, and I believe it’s for a few reasons.

Firstly, I’m done with my surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. A tremendous relief. The treatments were daunting and challenging, but they done!

Secondly, my hair is growing back. Curly and all different directions – I’m even starting to find my short boy’s cut kind of cute on some days.

Thirdly, I’m able to train again. Although I am surely not be as fast as I was in 2019/2020, I’m grateful to be active and training, especially compared to the days when I was undergoing chemo and lacked the energy to train. And….I’m preparing to run the Oceans Half marathon again! My last Two Oceans Half marathon was in 2019, and I’m looking forward to earning my permanent blue number, which was delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 and 2021, and my injury-related rehab in 2022.

And another reason might be that Finally, I’ve made peace with the miscarriage Tony and I experienced in 2021. Accepting the miscarriage was tougher for me than accepting the cancer for various reasons. I had always wanted to share the experience of raising a child with someone who lived in the same home as me. My minions are my entire world and still there was always a sense of something missing – not being able to share their milestones with someone significant in our lives, in the same house.

My family was always around and supportive, yet there were times when I closed the doors at night and it felt lonely.

When Tony and I found out about our little “chicken wing,” as we called her, we were overjoyed. Losing her was devastating, but now, almost two years later, I am finally at peace with it in a way I cannot fully explain. She will always be in my heart even though she never arrived in my arms. And it finally feels ok. I don’t feel guilty or sad that I will continue my life without her. That I will enjoy my life without her physically being with me. It’s enough that I got to spend those ten weeks carrying her in my body. And I feel immensely grateful for that, and the joy of being alive.

My eldest son Josh is thriving, now in his third year at film school, and my youngest child, Micaiah, is pursuing her passion as a first-year fine art student at Michaelis (UCT). My family, parents, siblings and in-laws are doing well, and my nephew Bailey brings so much joy into my life. Work is also keeping me busy, as I’m learning a lot in my new role, despite the challenges and frustrations. With ChatGPT on the scene, life feels exciting – there’s so much research to be done.

Life just feels right, and it doesn’t feel as difficult right now. It’s all cyclical, I know. But now is the only time that ever really matters. And now I am truly grateful. Maybe it’s because I’ve survived cancer, or maybe it’s something else. Possibly acceptance is the key to happiness? By that I mean accepting whatever one’s circumstances are at that particular moment? Whatever the reason, I’m not overly bothered to figure it out. It’s just so darn lekker to be high on life. So, here’s to my first Cancerversary – a celebration of life and gratitude 🥂🍾

PS…. before I go, here are some pictures from our family Easter – lunch at my Boetie’s place and a Paw Patrol themed Easter Egg hunt all centered around my nephew Bailey. What fun, what immense fun.

Mighty Ryder saves Easter

Et cetera, et cetera, Et cetera

Gosh I love that phrase from one of my favourite movies… The King and I. I not only love that phrase, I love that movie.

There is soooooo much to report on since my last blog post.

So I’ll get right to it, but I’ll try to keep it short. REAL short.

Most important right now, is I am done with radiation therapy!!! Do I hear a whoop WHOOP for me 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾. Ok radiation isn’t as bad as the dreaded chemotherapy is but still. I had three weeks of treatment. I am Beyond grateful that it’s done.

Me at ICON- about to get radiation therapy

While the radiation itself wasn’t bad, the side effects after radiation were quite hectic. I believe mine wasn’t as bad as what it could get, but even though mine wasn’t bad, two weeks after radiation some of the skin on my breast is still discoloured and some even peeled off. OUCH!

Then, another great adventure was Stardust. For Tony, Toni, Tones’es bday we went to Stardust Restaurant where your waiter/waitress is actually the entertainment too! Wow, what an amazing experience. Highly recommended. A little bit pricey but worth it. The singing was top top notch – excellent really – and food was really good 😋 yummylicious

Happy birthday babe ❤️

Shortly after (few days after) I met up with Mel and Berty for an amazing Din Din (Dinner Club) experience at MoJO market. The last time we met up for dinner club was just before lockdown…. 16 March 2020 (the day Bailey was born!) to be precise. It was sooo good to hang out with them again. We have seen each other since, but not “as dinner club”. That highlights the importance of keeping one’s autonomy to me. I love Tony dearly, but let’s face it, we all need time with our friends to recalibrate from time to time.

Say AWEH Masekinders!

Then, about three weekends ago, Tony and I pickled off to Gansbaai. It was a Christmas gift from him and what a lovely gift it was! We stayed at a place called Sea Staff Cliff and started the weekend with bubbles and chocolate.

Then we went exploring some caves and indulged in a bit of fine dining. I highly recommend The Blue Goose and Eileen’s Seafood Paradise. Delicious fare! Eileen’s is value for money, a cosy easy eatery. The Blue Goose is delicious food and it feels like a worthwhile treat.

Ice cold water on a blistering hot day in the hotel pool. Refreshing 💦

The caves were really something else.

The week after that we went paragliding off Signal Hill

Smile and wave Captain! What views!

And the last week, was my cousin Michelle’s wedding. I danced so much that my feet hurt 💃🏾

Too much of fun 🤩 my aunts, cousin and niece

And today was yet another significant event…. It was the first official ‘road race’ since my rehab and cancer treatment. It felt good to be back on the road, running in a race again.

Not too shabby!

Then I made delicious (eggless) corn fritters today. Can’t wait to trial them with Bailey and André. They were quite delicious- even if I must say so myself. And so easy to make. Only one cup of fresh corn kernels, half a cup of self raising flour, half a cup of corn flour and a third of a cup of desiccated coconut. Shallow pan fried in some sunflower oil with a splash of sesame oil.

And finally, my hair and eyebrows are back. I am beyond happy about that. I’m feeling good, feeling strong and self-confident again. Yes, it feels good to feel like Bronwyn again 😎

Can I get another whoop whoop 🙌🏾

A hill of beans

Happy 2023 everyone. My wish to you: May this year be whatever you want it to be for you 💖

I’m not sure what I want this year to be for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about a mediation I did a few years ago where I first visualized myself alone, then myself in my room, then in my house with others, then on my road with all the people that stay on the road, then in my suburb, then my city, then my province. Then everyone in South Africa, then everyone in Africa, and then everyone in the world. There are 8 billion of us. Whatever is going on in my life is important to me, but in the greater scheme, even though it is important, how significant is it really?

This reminds me of a quote from my favourite movie Casa Blanca when Rick says to Ilsa “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now. Here’s looking at you, kid.

Simply a hill of beans

Thinking about life from this perspective helps keep me grounded and my ego in check. All I need to do is breathe and take one step after another. 2023 will do what 2023 wants to do for me.

I started slowly working again on Monday. Ouch, it’s difficult getting back into it, but I’ve made a start. I’ve also started with a sort of spiritual cleanse, and I’ll be following a sort of vegan diet (no meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol or processed food) for the next three weeks. It feels right. I expect nothing of this year, and I’ve set my only intention to just be present and show up for myself.

I was invited to a job interview at UCT, and I decided to respectfully decline. I need to catch up with everything else before I start anything new. Last year I just came limping in over the finish line. I would rather start slowly, but confidently this year.

Finally, I flipping shaved my head again! I was so bloody hung up (still am) on the fact that I lost my lovely long salt and pepper locks. As chemo was ending, I desperately tried growing them back again. My hair started growing but mostly on the back and side leaving me with a balder patch on top. And then my last remaining eyebrows and eyelashes fell off, and I realized I just looked plain ridiculous trying to hold onto straws. So I decided, bugger that, I’m shaving it all off again. I’ll keep on shaving until it grows back more evenly- if it ever does! And it felt good. It’s for sure not my ideal look, definitely not what I wanted, but I positively feel like I am more in control again. Yes, kids, nothing but a hill of beans 🫘

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night 🎄

My sister-in-law gifted the kids with a DIY gingerbread house set. What a superb gift for all the kids – from the 3 year old to the 20 year old. After lunch and a nap, they all sat around the table and the put the gingerbread house together.

I could have never anticipated how much they all enjoyed it – and how engaged each of them were. Fun was definitely had!

A sweet output for sure…. Somehow it stands on its own despite it being skew. I don’t think I’ll be hiring these guys to build anything for me anytime soon!

Chemo chronicles

I haven’t blogged in ages because I’ve been scared of what I might sound like. Knowing I am a cancer patient – getting chemotherapy, I have been scared that I would sound too heavy, too negative, or too false positive, too ….like what -f’ing- ever.

It’s the eve of my final chemo session, and I need to blog again. It’s time to let go of caring what others might think about me saying what I feel. I look like a fat middle age person with male pattern balding … hahaha that’s kinda funny – I’ll say that again because it felt so good. I look like a fat middle-aged person with male pattern balding. I don’t want to look like this because I don’t identify with the image of myself. But this is what it is.

I am middle-aged… and I’ve picked up 5kg on this journey. I have three eyebrow hairs over my right eye and five over my left eye. I probably have two eyelashes on each of my eyes. The Michelin Man. I hate the way that I look, and I accept that I hate the way that I look.

When I say that out loud, then it’s like everyone around me goes into panic mode… like they feel they need to reassure me, or comfort me, or tell me to flipping be patient. I know that this won’t last forever – but I feel the way that I feel. I think people struggle with the fact that one can accept that things just suck… most people don’t want to say things suck because they feel it’s ‘negative’ and God forbid we are negative. So for God’s sake Bronwyn…. Don’t say that out loud!

Society is conditioned to want things to be bright and shiny, or if it’s not bright and shiny, we must be on a mission to get things bright and shiny. Society has the tendency to want to dismiss perceived negative thoughts and respond to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy. There’s so much pressure to ‘stay positive’, so when you say things are not well, even that you have accepted that things are not well, it makes almost all the people around one uncomfortable.

In general, people feel the need to offer comfort or advice. I catch myself doing the same thing, too sometimes. But today, while I’m still an active chemotherapy patient, I want to say that toxic positivity is death. It’s not sustainable, and it makes things worse for someone who is going through something difficult to tell them to stay positive, as opposed to just saying it sucks. If something is really difficult or bad, we can’t “positive thinking” it away. Positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful. Why on earth do people still say ‘stay positive’ to someone who is going through something, or she’s got a great positive attitude, as a compliment about someone who is going through something downright shitty?

Come on Bella… Let’s be positive

It’s kinda like death. Someone dies, we have to grieve, and we have to mourn to be able to appreciate life again. If something in your life dies …. your health, your career, your image of yourself, your car, your relationship or marriage, your project, your anything, the same principle applies. Feel it to get over it. For me getting cancer and becoming the Michelin Man was no different. I’m feeling it to get over it. I’m feeling it so that I can find a way to appreciate life again, albeit different to what it was like before.

Change is constant in life, so no situation, good or bad, will be permanent. So whatever I feel today, positive or negative, won’t last. Susan Davids says difficult emotions (situations) are part of our contract with life. Today I am saying it’s about time for us to raise awareness about the incredible value of difficult situations and emotions – the important role that negative feelings have for growth and for a really truly meaningful life.

I am Woman

Happy Woman’s Day everyone. It does seem rather odd that South Africa has a different National Woman’s Day to International Woman’s Day which is the 8th of March, but there’s a very good reason for this. On the 9th of August 1956, about 20 000 women of all ethnic groups marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against South African legislation that tightened the apartheid government’s control over the movement of black people in urban areas. Rules such as ‘pass laws’, which required all black men over the age of 16 to carry their pass books at all times, as well as the Group Areas act which restricted where people could stay. The women sang a protest song “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” (You strike a woman, you strike a rock) that was composed in honour of the occasion.

These brave women banded together in a display of indignance towards the unjust legislation. Their goal was to hand over bundles of petitions against the laws, signed by more than 100 000 women, to the then South African prime minister, J.G. Strijdom – who incidentally had arranged to be elsewhere. The petitions were however eventually accepted by his secretary. Although the prime minister was not there to receive the petitions, the message was sent loud and clear.

The protest group was led by Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Sophia Williams De-Bruyn seen in the image above. Photo Source: UCT NewsRoom. 07 AUGUST 2015. Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo. Photo by Jurgen Schadeberg

So this was 66 years ago, but the impact of the day continues. Commemorating Woman’s Day is a way to raise awareness around ongoing issues affecting women worldwide and highlights initiatives and campaigns focused on improving women’s lives and increasing gender parity. Or is it possibly merely only an idealistic step toward addressing important issues such as domestic violence, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, equal pay, education for girls and more? 

I say idealistic because I’ve started thinking that there is something more basic and horribly overlooked that has the power to derail our noble endeavours towards an equal society. That is, ‘identity’. Is it plausible that one’s agency* is threatened if identity is threatened? So of course, my next question is “what is it to be a woman?”, “who is a woman?”, “what is not a woman?” – All rhetorical questions – I don’t have the answers…

I can share that having to shave my hair recently certainly got me thinking about what is to be a woman. It was traumatic losing my hair! I felt like I lost an important part that identified me as a woman. Admittedly, I felt really ugly and ashamed…. Inadequate. Thanks to the love and support of family and friends (and Mr Bump who reminded me the best of us are bald), I was able to navigate that dark space – but it made me realise that I need to challenge my preconceptions of what beautiful is, and what encompasses beauty. What being a woman is, and what being feminine is. In the part of society where I live, more women have long hair than short hair, and it’s extremely, very highly unusual to see a woman with a bald head.

By western cultural standards, seeing a bald-headed woman generally indicates that something went wrong – it’s considered taboo, threatening, or ugly. Somehow flowing hair is tied up with the notion of female beauty, a potent symbol of feminity. I am not suggesting that it should not be. However, I have been wondering why ‘no hair’ seems equivalent to being hyper-masculine? Why shouldn’t ‘no hair’ be beautiful or feminine? Is womanhood defined by my body parts, having children, my relationships, my jobs or something else? Is it my strength, my resilience, my vulnerability or my tenderness? Or all of the above…. none of the above?

What makes me worthy of being a woman? Why do I feel like I need to be a certain way or look a certain way to be a woman? And where do the societal expectations of what ‘I need to look like, be like, and sound like to be a woman’ come from? Does it even matter? And why do I care? Again, I don’t have the answers – and I don’t need the answers. But, I do have a bleskop (colloquial word for bald head). And somehow it feels right to own this look now. So I’m gonna rock this bleskop damn it!

*Agency = activity, intention or business

Daddy and daughter