Lives to play
We hear how superhero, Lofentse Buthelezi, became the victor over childhood cancer.
Lofentse Buthelezi (8) stays in Mondeor, Gauteng with his parents, Sithuli and Masetshego, and his baby sister.
On the day of the interview, Lofentse plays outside. He told his father, Sithuli, beforehand that he wants to be outdoors with his friends so Sithuli must rather answer the questions. This is perfectly normal behaviour for an energetic eight-year-old, but most of all it shows that the little superhero is catching up on lost playing time.
Diagnosed at age 5
Ironically, it was a fall off the jungle gym, at school, that led to the discovery of a Wilms’ tumour (nephroblastoma) in Lofentse’s kidney, in March 2015. After the fall, the five-year-old complained his tummy was sore. The GP picked up that he had a mass in his abdomen and sent him for a scan, then referred him to a paediatrician. The paediatrician arranged a biopsy, which confirmed the mass in Lofentse’s right kidney was cancer; it had ruptured when he fell.
Before that, the previous two months, Lofentse kept on getting sick. Different doctors diagnosed it as chest infections then viral infections. Sithuli recalls the ‘infection’ persisted leading up to the fall.
Masetshego attributes Lofenste comprehending that he had cancer (as much as a five-year-old could) to the fact that there were no secrets. “When the doctors discussed his treatment with us, Lofentse was present and was part of the discussion. When he had questions, he would ask us (parents) and we would answer as best as we could. Plus, at the Paediatric Oncology Unit at Donald Gordon, they had little animated books that describe cancer and getting a port in a child-friendly way. That also really helped,” Masetshego says. A port was inserted to make chemotherapy infusions more comfortable for Lofentse.
Eight weeks of neo-adjuvant chemo was initiated to shrink the tumour. “I remember once during treatment he asked me, ‘When are they going to take the shark out my body?’ I suppose that was his way of understanding it,” Sithuli says.
Then in May 2015, Lofentse’s right kidney, which the tumour was in, was surgically removed. Once he came to, he asked his father, “Is the shark gone now? Am I going to be fine?” Sithuli assured him, saying, “Absolutely!” A week of radiation was completed, then another 27 weeks of chemotherapy began.
During chemotherapy, Sithuli says Lofentse was his usual self, besides struggling to keep his food down, being tired, and losing his hair and eyebrows. “The hardest thing for Lofentse was not being allowed to play outside with his friends. He was isolated a lot due to his immune system being low, but every chance he got to play, he grabbed it.”
Masetshego still can’t put into words how she felt when she heard her son was ill. “I took it really hard and think I am still trying to deal with it,” she says. Sithuli was her tower of strength; he made the brave decision to stop working to take care of little Lofentse. “We were fortunate enough that we had some money to fall back on,” Sithuli says. Though, the family is currently recouping financially even though they had medical aid. Thankfully, Sithuli found another job once Lofentse completed treatment.
The married couple decided to keep Lofentse back; he repeated Grade R once he was healthy and is now in Grade 1.
During Lofentse’s chemotherapy, a representative of Reach For A Dream Foundation visited him and asked what his dream was.
Masetshego then got a call, in 2017, to say the foundation wanted to fulfil his dream of Go-Karting. Not only did Lofentse and his family enjoy an adventure of Go-Karting together but Lofentse was also given his own Go-Kart to ride around every day at home.
The beauty of this Go-Kart is that it has become a community Go-Kart; Lofentse allows all the children in the complex, where he lives, to play with it, ‘except the big kids ‘cos they will break it.’
Sithuli adds, “There is not much left of it, but it still goes.” This Go-Kart has brought many children happiness, not only our superhero, Lofentse.
Lofentse has since become an ambassador for Reach For A Dream #SlipperDay2018, while Masetshego volunteers for the foundation.
Today Lofentse is in good health and enjoys school. He loves being outdoors, cooking and swimming.
He takes his role of big brother very seriously; when his friends come over he will shout the orders of how to hold her or what not to do. He also manipulates his parents when it is bedtime, saying, “but I have not spent time with my sister.”
Every six months Lofentse goes for a check-up. “Before, when he went for more regular check-ups he would complain and say, ‘Do I have to be pricked again? How long do we have to be here?’ explains. Masetshego. “But now he’s fine, he never speaks about the cancer unless he is asked about it.”
One-on-one with Lofentse
1. What is your favourite colour? I have three: white, red and blue.
2. If you could play all day, what would you play? Race Go-Karts.
3. What is your favourite car? A Jeep – the orange one that looks like a van.
4. What is your favourite subject at school? Maths.
5. What is your favourite sport? Soccer
6. What do you want to be when you grow up? A soccer player.
7. When you went Go-Karting, did you or Mommy go faster? Mommy went faster but then I caught up.
8. Do you like doctors? Yes, because they help people.
9. What didn’t you like about when you had cancer? When I lost my hair. It upset me because I love my hair. Interviewer: But your daddy doesn’t have hair and he looks cool. Yes, but he has a beard, that’s why he looks cool.
10. What good advice would you give other children who have cancer? I don’t have good advice but I would tell them I feel sorry for them.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle is the Editor at Word for Word Media and graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She have a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write me: email@example.com