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Inspirational Stories

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Inspirational Stories


“We are built not to shrink down into less but to blossom into more”

Those words, originally penned by Oprah Winfrey, were the favourite saying and mantra of Kerry Teunen, my daughter and a remarkable woman who died in early December 2012 after a valiant two and a half year battle with cancer.

Kerry’s battle with cancer was one that started in 1972, a year after she was born. Kerry was diagnosed with retinablastoma, a rare childhood cancer that affects the retinas of the eyes. Her right eye was removed and replaced with a prosthetic one.

The doctors did what they could to save some sight for Kerry, but by the time she was four years old she was totally blind. Radiation to the left side of Kerry’s face, left her with a lopsided face and an empty eye socket as a prosthetic eye could not be fitted..

The impact that Kerry had on society as a whole was apparent from an early age. Her cheerful, sunny disposition rubbed off on all the people that she came into contact with.

Kerry never allowed her blindness to be a handicap in her daily living. She completed her education at the University of Johannesburg, where she obtained an Honours Degree in Sociology.

Swimming in pools and the sea, mountain climbing, tandem bicycle riding and roller skating were all tackled by Kerry without hesitation and with great enthusiasm.

Marriage for Kerry sadly ended in divorce, but not before she was blessed with twin sons, Richard and Carl, who are now 14 years old and living with my husband and I. What a blessing for us all!

Even though Kerry was blind and a single mother she was the best mother that Richard and Carl could have wanted. She maintained a home for them, cooked, cleaned and did all that was necessary on a day to day basis. More importantly, she taught her sons to love God and to be upstanding citizens.

On the lighter side of life, Kerry made time to play with her sons, whether it was keeping score for their garden cricket games, or beating them at ten-pin bowling at the alley or on the Wii games console.

Kerry was both a daughter and a friend to me. Saturday mornings were our special times. We would go out for breakfast or tea and philosophise about all and sundry. Kerry had the knack of putting everything back into perspective if I was concerned or emotional in any way.

The cancer remained in remission until April 2010, when Kerry had to have a kidney removed due to a new cancer that had developed. The cancer then spread to Kerry’s liver, spine and lungs. This battle was one that Kerry fought with all the physical, emotional and spiritual strength that she could muster. Her faith in God never wavered until the very end.

The family misses Kerry every day that God gives us. She was a wonderful daughter, grand-daughter, sister and finally mother.

The impact that Kerry had on her friends and colleagues at Wesbank can be summed up by the following messages to Kerry during her final few weeks of life:

“Dear Super Woman!
You remain an inspiration in your character, your warm soul, your kind heart, your wicked sense of humour and most certainly with the will and courage of a lion. Keep that brave and fighting spirit, and know that you are loved.”

“Every day I close my eyes and pray. I make sure that I include you. I believe in you and without a doubt I know that very soon you will be here with us, keeping us happy and making sure that everyone around you smiles. We love you Kerry and we all miss you so much.”

“I don’t need to tell you what an amazing change you made to my life, because I have told you before. Just know that you have a power in you that impacts on everyone that you come into contact with, a positive power that we cannot even begin to understand.”

Here are Kerry’s own words regarding faith:
What is faith? We can write so many definitions of what faith is. To some faith has a religious connotation and underlying values, whereas to others, faith means believing something, not necessarily on a religious platform.

I have always had faith, but faith in a wide perspective. I have always had faith in people, in that problems will resolve themselves, in the belief that as long as the sun shines there is hope.

But where did I meet God?

My first recollection is when I was very small and had to have my one eye removed. I was in hospital waiting to have my eye removed. That night I saw and felt God in my hospital room. I remember seeing a bright warm light and feeling a warm presence.

Since I can remember, God has always been in my pocket, to give me strength for each day and each situation. Life has had its hard moments, but never have I felt abandoned by God or like I have been deserted in the dessert without any provisions.

These are such positive words from a person who could so easily have felt abandoned by God.

Farewell my brave and beautiful daughter.

Heather Smit

Born to Shine Magazine