It’s been a while since I wrote about Natalie Cohen, the miracle child who is still surviving a rare form of bone cancer. 13 year old Natalie continues to be surrounded by her circle of love, family and friends who do everything. One of her most special circle of lovers Â is Nina, her care giver. Nina is a flower. She is positive, creative, cute and funny, and she has made a FUNdraiser event that takes place this Thursday even ing at Zula Bar in Long Street. It’s for all lovers of dance. Watch, dance yourself, or watch and learn like me. Actually, I am going to be the emcee at the event, so if we haven’t seen each other in a while, now would be a great time to catch up! Read about Natalie’s journey here, on Natalie’s Circle of LoveÂ and check out the facebook eventÂ and book ticketsÂ or even buy a ticket for someone else. Easy peasy. Let’s Dance this Thing.
Jaqueline Dommisse snuck me in to the first performance of her show Sadako, since I could not get a media ticket and it was sold out! Sadako was written by Peter Hayes, directed by Jaqueline with a cast of amazing puppeteer/actors and designed by Ilke Louw.
I saw the original Sadako many moons ago at The Baxter Studio, and I was surprized at how much of it I remembered. It is the heart wrenching tale of Sadako, who eight or so years after the atom bombing of Hiroshima, gets ‘bomb sickness’, leukemia. Eina.
This production is newer, bigger, better and sadder. All the puppeteers are amazing; but special mention must be made of Roshina Ratnam (Sadako) and Mark Hoeben (who plays her dad and the doctor). They are transportingly wonderful, believable and Mark in particular is effortlessly sincere.
So, here’s what happened to me during Sadako. I could not manage the story of the sick little girl at all. I segued into imagining Natalie, in Boston, who is still undergoing treatment for her cancer, and I was a wreck, a total, wet, sniveling mess. I could hardly breathe. Which makes it hard to separate. But it is amazing when a piece of puppet theatre can take you there.
I do have some thoughts on the production though. It is very, very beautiful and special, but it is long, and because of the slightly old fashioned style, it is slow. This makes it hard for children (there were two wrigglies next to me and they were going nuts). The story has its own inevitable relentlessness and I think there need to be one or two fewer of the intensely poignant moments; there are one too many to be in tears about!
Some of my favourite things were the relationship between Sadako and her delightful best friend, their most cute school uniforms, the sick little boy in his teeny wheel chair, the thousand paper cranes, Sadako’s mom, and the teeny, teeny baby puppet version of the kid in the family.
Sad Sadako is precious, beautiful, and an emotional weep fest. Be prepared.
Firstly, a bit of housekeeping. Within hours of Simon laying down the challenge, his R50 000 ceiling was capped! How awesome is that? We still need to raise much, much more though. So, is there anyone out there with a similar deal for the next R50 000? I am beyond proud of meganshead readers who have been human angels.
Then, the rest of this post is my press release. Please come. Please spread the word. We have exactly a week to sell 638 seats.
Natalieâ€™s Circle of Love TheatreSports FUNdraiser
Where: The Baxter Theatre Concert Hall
When: Fri 4 March @20h00
How much: R100 a ticket
TheatreSports, Cape Townâ€™s longest running and most favourite live theatre show, has been delighting audiences with their special brand of creative, interactive hilariousness since 1993.
If there is one thing that this team of improvisers know, itâ€™s that laughter is the best medicine. Thatâ€™s why, when we, the members of TheatreSports Cape Town heard about 10 year old Natalie Cohenâ€™s rare cancer Chordoma, and the huge and expensive treatment she was going to need overseas, we decided to put on a FUNdraiser.
So, on Friday the 4 March, at 20h00, at The Baxter Theatre Concert Hall you can come and laugh and play with us for an hour and ten minutes. Itâ€™s going to be improvisation like youâ€™ve never seen it before! Teams of players will compete against each other by playing improvised games based on suggestions from the audience, and scored by judges in the audience. Itâ€™s crazy, unpredictable and completely hilarious.
Natalie and her whole family will be there. Itâ€™s their last night before Natalie and her mom Shirley and dad Jonny fly off to Regensberg in Germany for huge surgery.
While so many generous people have pledged and donated money towards this unbelievably expensive undertaking to get Natalie treatment, there were many who felt unsure about what they could do, or intimidated by how small and insignificant their offering would be. This is a chance for all of you to contribute! R100 buys you a ticket. The Concert Hall has 638 seats! Our goal is to sell out the show. The show is suitable for everybody and is especially loved by young people of all ages. Buy a ticket. Bring your family and friends. Buy a ticket for someone else! Share in the laughter and become part of Natalieâ€™s Circle of Love.
Info about TheatreSports www.theatresports.co.za
Info about Natalieâ€™s Circle of Love and the human angels who are helping Â www.nataliescircleoflove.org
Natalieâ€™s story and some of the amazing people who have helped on my blog www.meganshead.co.za
To reserve tickets please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 0834403961
Simon has challenged to pay R2 for every R1 (up to a maximum of R50 000. I kid you not!)that Meganshead readers pay, to raise money for Natalie, the sick little girl I wrote about a few posts below. Meganshead readers, this is an extraordinary thing. PLease, make payments into the Circle of Love account whose details can be found on Natalie’s Circle of LoveÂ website. Then email me your proof of payments and I’ll forward them directly to Simon to match and double. How completely amazing is that?
Also, watch this space. We are going to be doing a massive TheatreSports performance to fundraise.
On the night of Mon 3 Jan 2011 Natalie Cohen, who is ten, woke up in pain. The next day she went to see Dr Fiona, a paediatric pulmonologist, about the pain in her chest. When she examined Natalie Dr Fiona was concerned because she was having breathing problems, so she ordered X-rays. Then all hell broke loose. The X-rays revealed a giant tumour, stretching from her spine all the way to her breastbone. The tumour was pressing on her wind pipe. Natalie was sent straight to have a CT scan. Natalie says, â€œI went sliding into the bagel!â€ She was brave and together even though it was terribly frightening. She was booked for surgery the next day, the 5 Jan. The five and a half hour operation was performed by an all woman team, led by Dr Susan Vosloo, an internationally acclaimed cardio-thoracic surgeon who trained under the world famous Dr Christiaan Barnard. The aim of the operation was to relieve the pressure on the airway and to do a biopsy of the tumour. The cut went from her nipple, all the way along her ribs, around her side, onto her back and up to her shoulder blade. Â Natalie was on life support for four days. You can imagine what her mom, dad, brother Kolla and all her friends and family went through.
The biopsy results came back and the doctors were totally shocked. They asked for a blind second opinion from independent pathologists to confirm Chordoma, an extremely rare form of spinal cancer, which almost never affects children, and usually affects older adults, with tumours presenting in the base of the brain or the bottom of the spine. There have been only three recorded cases of thoracic Chordoma since 1960! This cancer has also destroyed four of Natalieâ€™s vertebra, but fortunately, her spinal cord has not been affected.
Natalie, as soon as she was off the respirators, started recovering and got stronger every day.Â After only two nights in the paediatric ward she was allowed to go home.
It soon became apparent that the South African team of specialists, while being experts in their field, had limited experience with the treatment of Chordoma, which needs surgery to remove the tumour and to reconstruct the spine, followed by an eight week course of Proton Beam Therapy. Â (Proton Beam Therapy is a type of radiation treatment that has seen excellent results specifically in Chordoma patients, and it is known to cause less damage than traditional radiation therapy. My layman’s understanding of how it works is that this treatment is much more targeted, bending beams around organs to aim at and zap the affected areas.) Natalie can only have this therapy in Boston because itâ€™s the only place with the right technology for her very particular needs.
Shirley and Jonny, Natalieâ€™s parents (who, for clarity, are not together), had little time to get over their complete shock, and had to learn fast, getting in touch with the global Chordoma network, following up leads, contacting specialists, and teams of specialists, all highly specialised in their own fields! Jonny has been a hero, scouring the globe, navigating the complexities of Natalieâ€™s particular case. Shirley has been up, talking to the world all night, since they are on different time zones. One of the huge issues is that nobody knows how much time they have before surgery, and how fast the cancer is growing.
There are currently three possibilities for surgery, and they are a multi-disciplinary European team, with the actual surgery in Regensberg, Germany, or a team at Mass. Gen in Boston, or the team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.Â You can imagine the complexity of putting together this kind of journey, let alone the three days of surgery at the end of it all.
Natalie, Shirley and Jonny are expecting to be overseas for about three months, leaving Natalieâ€™s nine year old brother in the care of family and friends back home. The decisions that need to be made are technical (medical expertise), emotional, and financial (the costs of overseas treatment, regardless of where, are huge and will run to several hundred thousand $). The urgency on the financial side is that the medical costs need to be paid up-front!
We are all only starting this journey of finding money, love, information, support and following all the ways possible to make a surgical cure for Natalie a reality. Shirley, Natalieâ€™s mom, has always talked to Natalie about being held in the Circle of Love, and Natalieâ€™s uncle has set up Natalieâ€™s Circle of Love Trust. This Circle of Love will now expand across the world, everyone holding and being held.
In the meantime, Natalie is going to school (when she feels strong enough), swimming in the sea, drawing beautiful pictures and doing her normal stuff.Â But mostly, she can be found with her nose in a book.
*All advice, input, cash, connections are absolutely welcomed. If you can help with money, please go to the trust for account details. If you have other stuff (including winter clothes for if they have to go to a really cold place), let me know and I will facilitate the process.