The giant shadow cast over Rheed Castle-Pearce’s life for the past year is slowly receding as the brave teenager has conquered cancer and now returns to normal life.
Last year the Elkanah House pupil stole the hearts of readers with his brave approach to dealing with cancer.
Rheed had been struggling with a hip injury which led to the discovery of a cancerous tumour (“Rheed battles his Goliath,” Tabletalk November 16, 2016).
Now exactly a year later, Rheed has triumphed over more obstacles than most people deal with in a lifetime.
Rheed’s mother, Tanya Castle-Pearce, is happy to put what she described as a “brutal year” behind her. Seeing a little boy undergo hip surgery and cycles of chemotherapy is terrible but when that little boy is your own it’s truly heart-wrenching.
Rheed’s younger brother, Slade, 10, also bore a lot of strain, as he was not able to do the things he usually did with his sibling. “He knew there was the possibility that his brother could die. He was incredible and not demanding at all,” said Ms Castle-Pierce.
Seated at a table in their West Beach home, Ms Castle-Pearce said Rheed had completed his last cycle of chemotherapy in December last year. In January, his first scans to check for cancer cells came back negative.
“In essence, he’s clear. Now that he’s no longer doing chemotherapy, he has to go for check-ups every three months. It’s a critical phase. We’re always anxious and scared that we won’t get the all clear.” She said support from Rheed’s school and the community had helped the family through the crisis.
“The support from the teachers, parents and everybody offering to take care of Slade meant so much.
“We would like to say a huge thank you to the community, to Elkanah House, to the parents, and everyone who helped. Candice Diab helped out with Slade such a lot. Sarah McKechnie, Hanli Ellis, Allsion Burger and Michelle Wood who raised R100 000 through fund-raising for Rheed and even drew up a meal roster. We never had time to cook and they made sure we ate,” she said.
Ms Castle-Pierce and her husband, Vince, had relocated to Cape Town from Zimbabwe only three months before Rheed fell ill, and she hadn’t even known where Red Cross Children’s Hospital was.
Hardly knowing anyone in Cape Town, they were blown away by the support they received from everyone.
“I’d be in Food Lover’s and complete strangers will come up to me and ask me how Rheed’s doing. It’s amazing to know people care.”
Rheed returned to school last week armed with two crutches for support as his one leg is now longer than the other due to his hip surgery.
“He was excited a week before the time. He loved his first day back and got a standing ovation in the assembly,” said Ms Castle-Pearce.
Every day Rheed gets stronger and in only a week he’s already managed to ditch one crutch. His focus now is on walking and running.
“He’s back in the water boogie boarding. He’s not at all negative.”
Now Rheed’s positive attitude has opened a door to radio. Red Cross Children’s Hospital is launching a radio programme where children run the show and Rheed has been asked to be a part of it.
“All he wanted to do was interview his little brother and his doctor, Professor Alan Davidson. He’s taking it very seriously, and he’s well prepared. He was asking Slade questions like ‘How did you feel knowing I could die?’ I don’t think Slade was expecting that,” said Ms Castle-Pearce.
For now, she said, they were focused on the future and taking it a day at a time. “We live for our children and each other. Vince was incredibly strong. We made a pact that we’d get through it together. We cried together and we clung together. Now we’re piecing our lives together and returning to normal. We discovering what normal is again. People sweat the small stuff, but what does it matter? You only live for today,” she said.