We spoke to three amazing local women about their different life journeys. Through health issues, with immense support from friends and family and themselves, they stay strong and strive to live a life of hope and abundance.
The Little Miracles
Meet Jade Joffe, born and raised in Ballito by her amazing parents with her older brother. Jade met her husband at a local braai in her matric year in 2008. They moved in together in 2009, got engaged in 2012 and married in 2013. They waited a year before wanting to start a family, but not everything went as expected. “We started trying to conceive in 2014, and with no luck. By 2016 we started getting a little concerned but didn’t put much pressure on ourselves. We then found out we were pregnant but shortly into the excitement, we suffered a miscarriage, it was hard to deal with, but we tried to look at the positives and keep going knowing there was a plan for us.
Later in 2016, we suffered another miscarriage and again in early 2017, we suffered a further two miscarriages, and by this time, we felt like giving up,” Jade says. Following several tests and medication and being told all was normal, they didn’t understand why this was happening; however, in May of 2017, Jade fell pregnant again, but with little hope, they didn’t get too excited. But to their surprise, they were blessed in February 2018 with their beautiful son, Cody. “We were happy with only one child, although there was talk on and off of a second. Suffering from endometriosis was painful, and a few doctors suggested that a hysterectomy was the only option to help with the pain. We were okay with it and went ahead with the surgery despite knowing deep down we would love an addition to our family. However, while waiting for medical aid to authorise my procedure, I discovered I was pregnant … a true MIRACLE. Lots of mixed emotions, but we were over the moon and ecstatic to have our second miracle son, Tyler Glen Joffe, born on 23 June, to complete our family.
Through it all, having someone constantly there for you to be your light of hope is important; for Jade, it was her husband and family.
“We both lost our Dads a year apart shortly after we met but knowing they were there looking down on us and guiding us and having each other is all we could ever have asked for. These things can make or break you as a person (and a couple), and by no means was it easy, but we were in it together. Through supporting each other and the support of our families, we really could not have asked for anything more,” Jade adds.
To anyone who is experiencing this journey, Jade left a few words of wisdom; “I know this is rough. I know this hurts, and I’m with you, but the moment you’re ready to quit is usually right before the miracle happens. Don’t give up!”
A Healthy Mindset
Meet Allyson Milne, mother to twins Jason and Brooklyn (21) and Tye (13), with her husband of 27 years. They relocated to Ballito from London 16 years ago. “I have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom and love spending time with my children,” Allyson says. For years she has been passionate about esoteric healing and loves helping and interacting with people.
In 2018, Allyson found herself in excruciating pain only to discover she needed minor keyhole surgery to rectify an adhesion attached to old scar tissue from an ectopic pregnancy 16 years back. When she came out of surgery, she was immediately put into ICU, unaware of the severity of her condition. “It turned out that during surgery, the doctor had to remove a portion of my colon due to the presence of Non-Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system,” Allyson exclaims.
“You never think that you will ever hear the word cancer associated with yourself, and to say I had the wind knocked out of my sails would have been an understatement. I was terrified that I would not be here for my children and husband. Would I see my kids finish school, get married, and have their own children? Would my hubby find someone who would make him happy and love my kids? It was horrific, the terror that takes over,” Allyson says.
Her supportive husband took control, arranging the appointments during her numb stage. At the time, her twins were heading into matric finals, which was a traumatic time for everyone. “I wanted to show my husband that I had this, but inside there was a sinkhole larger than life-threatening to absorb me,” Allyson adds.
Once she knew what she was in for, she could wrap her head around it. “I had amazing friends who rallied around and supported me. My family were my cornerstone, and God was my anchor. Once I started Chemo, I completely changed my mindset. I let go of fear with no attachment to the outcome. Nothing was administered into my body without blessing and prayer. Chemo bags were called Angel Juice, and even the nurses prayed over my medication with me. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and went into warrior mode.” Allyson says.
She decided to see herself as cancer-free, never got obsessed with blood charts and numbers and was grateful for the incredible doctors and nurses in her path. “My beacon of hope was the moment I physically felt God touch my hands and tell me that he would never leave me nor forsake me. I knew at that moment that I was healed. And when the pain of watching my hair fall out was unbearable, my friend, Mabette, shaved her head to give me the courage to do it!” Allyson says, smiling.
Your mind will always be your biggest challenge, but you have the choice to listen to it or tell it a
Meet Claire Howell, a 30-year-old born in the UK who moved to South Africa five years ago from Australia, where she met her now-husband Alex Van Der Merwe, who most folks will recognise from the Pam Golding billboards. Claire has a background in clothing design, and some might know her as the founder of Vanhulu or co-founder of DALA, the local creators’ shop and events company which opened at Burnedale farm during lockdown.
Claire was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes from the age of two. Now, 28 years later, she has learnt how this has unconsciously steered a lot of her life, and it still does, except she does the driving. “Having diabetes only made me feel more insecure because I hated feeling different, being given special treatment and most of all, being protected more than others. Basically, I didn’t want any attention on me for my disability,” Claire says.
She continued through her teens and twenties with a toxic mentality of herself, which resulted in neglect of her diabetes for years until she left university and moved to Australia. Three years later, on the brink of getting sponsorship to stay there and just after meeting Alex, Claire found out she was losing her sight in one eye as a complication of poor diabetic control. “The realisation of potentially losing my sight was so frightening that I spiralled fast into a deep depression and frequently felt suicidal. I was put on antidepressants to keep me going and be well enough to return to my family in the UK, leaving my dreams of a future in Australia behind. That was by far the toughest time I’ve ever been through,” Claire explains.
However, when Claire looks back, it was somewhat like a rebirth into the person she is growing into today. “I can’t say the last five years in Ballito have been easy…although I had built up my dream business, a clothing brand, learnt to surf and indulged in the beach life, I’ve also been on the brink of poverty, been through months of treatment on my eyes and lost almost everything during the pandemic. But I have come back from each fall with more strength and determination, and now I am internally living better than I ever have been,” Claire exclaims.
Last year she set a goal to have her diabetes in control and reduce the severity of the problems with her eyes, and for the first time in 28 years, she has done it! “I’m currently working on building an online global network and movement for T1D to come together, inspire, empower and ignite the dreams of one another. To other young people with type one diabetes, I encourage them to use their diabetes as a force of power because what you can achieve alongside living with this is like having superpowers in my eyes,” Claire says.