Monday, October 8, 2012


This time of the year the weather is unpredictable and, like last year, a close eye was kept on weather reports the week before the walk.  Although the sky was filled with dark clouds on Wednesday morning, Helderberg was clear of clouds, and according to local belief, it would not rain.  I'm happy to report that the locals were right; it didn't rain until much later that day.  

I knew that the hikers who walked the Camino would not be happy to walk 2 kilometres on MSA Day, therefore we had two walks this year; a 6 km as well as a 2 km walk.  My friend, Susan, awaited the arrival of the first group and they departed at 9.30 to walk along the beach-front in the direction of Gordon’s Bay.   

Me and Johnny

My husband, Johnny, took a day’s leave from work to accompany me. On our arrival some friends were already having coffee in the foyer of the Hibernian Towers, and we huddled there for a while to keep out of the wind.  

As I didn’t want to miss the return of the first group, we went out to wait for them.  When they arrived we posed for a group photo before we set off along the beach front towards the water-slide.  I enjoyed chatting to the all the different ‘drivers’ of my wheelchair and the turning point came much too soon. 

Karin, who has the ability to organise an army, had little trouble to persuade Casa del Sol to open their doors earlier than normal to accommodate us. My thanks to Mike Rich and his kind and competent staff who, like last year, were excellent hosts and kept coffees and cappuccino's coming.  When we walked in Susan and her helpers had already lit the 100 candles to create the ambience for a morning filled with love.

When I attempted to make a speech last year, I was out-performed by the tremors in my left leg. This year I wrote the speech, but decided to skip the stress and asked a friend to deliver it for me.  Hugh Holtzhausen did a most excellent job of conveying the following;

“Welcome to the second year of this awareness campaign for MSA.  We are part of the worldwide project ‘WALK A MILE BURN A CANDLE' that is happening around the globe on 3 October.  The campaign is the brainchild of a brave Belgian lady, Ritje Schouppe-Moons, who lost her husband to the disease. This year’s aim is to get enough miles to cover the distance around the globe.

Ritje’s favourite quote is these words by John F Kennedy; “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” So my sincerest thanks to all of you who came out today to help us make a difference and achieve our goals. I am aware that some of you have travelled some distance to be here today, I welcome all the newcomers, and I appreciate the loyal support of those who are here for the second time.

Over the past year I have met many other patients through facebook.  I’ve also had the privilege to meet a couple here in South Africa, some of them in person.  One of these patients and her family lives here in the Strand.  Thank you to her husband, Lionel, who joined us today to represent the McDonald family.  We wish you, Reinette and your family strength in your battle with MSA.

This year I have been blessed to be a small part of a great project when my friends walked the Camino in Spain for MSA.  Between the five of them they hiked the total of 3200 km – a huge contribution towards achieving our goal this year.  Three of them came out to do some more walking with us today.  Thank you to Susan Albertyn, Emilene Ferreira and Eddie Waring.  Eddie only recently returned from his extended holiday and this is the first opportunity I have to thank him with a gift. Thank you to my friend, Frans Albertyn, who kindly sponsored this gift for Eddie.

Behind every woman there is a man…as well as a couple of women!  Thank you to my dear husband, Johnny, for his loyal and patient support.  I am happy that he could spend the day with me.

Thank you to my loyal and dedicated friends, Karin and Susan, without whose help I would be lost. They helped me to organise this event, and behind the scenes they also smooth over many of the rough edges in my life.  And believe me, with MSA there’s plenty of rough edges!  Everything I do is made possible for me by the framework of supportive love formed by my husband, family and friends.

Ermanno, Elize, Karin Susan, Annemarie

Laurette I greatly appreciate your willingness to always photograph all the happenings in my life.  I am very proud of the professional appearance your beautiful photos lend to my blog and facebook pages.

Me and Laurette (photo Bev Simpson Hurst)

I’m excited to tell you about the first fundraising for MSA research next year.  Amanda Erlank, the daughter of MSA patient, Magda Erlank, is organising a group of cyclist to participate in the Argus cycle tour in March.  Please share this news with your cycling friends and have them contact us for the details.

Meeting other patients also made me more aware of their daily battle with the disease.  For their sakes, and with your help, I have to persevere in creating awareness and raising funds until a cure is found. 

My thanks to the Lord for the strength and courage he gives me daily, and for blessing me with all of you who support me in this dream…to find a cure for MSA.

One last request; please take one of our flyers, share it with a friend in the coming week, tell somebody about MSA, so we can double the amount of people reached by this awareness campaign.” 

After Hugh’s speech Karin Holtzhausen took it upon herself to convey the realities of dealing with MSA in my life, by reading her written explanation to someone else.  My dear friend needed a couple of tissues to get her through that speech, and her words deeply touched others as well.  One such person afterwards commented that she had no idea that this was what life is like for me now.  I find it difficult to tell people about the exact impact of MSA without letting it sound like a pity party and thus I'm thankful to her for handling this with such sensitivity.  Not having the necessary knowledge of my capabilities, often leads to others having expectations that I can no longer fulfil.

Coffee was served while we chatted away and strengthened the bonds of friendships. 

Early evening Johnny lit the fire for a braai (South African barbecue) and my friends joined us for the ‘lighting of the candles’ ceremony.  I could never resist candles and candle holders, and through the years have acquired quite a collection.  When Karin and Susan gathered them from all over my house, even I was amazed.  Several attempts to count them resulted in different totals (too much wine?!), but in the end we agreed that it was somewhere between 50 – 60 candles.

‘A candle loses none of its brightness when lighting another candle’

That amount of candles, when lit, created a sacred ambience and I spent a quiet moment thinking of my friends who are battling this disease, as well as those families who have lost their loved ones to MSA.

MSA Day was busy, and, although it left me physically tired, I was filled with hope by the supportive love of family, friends, and now also friends of friends.  May the little fire, started by us last year, be blessed and continue to grow in the years to come.

Thank you to Laurette van der Merwe and Bev Simpson Hurst for the photography


  1. Sonja,

    You look wonderful in these pictures. You and Karin did an amazing job with the event. It looks like a huge success! ‘A candle loses none of its brightness when lighting another candle’ is a wonderful quote. You and Karin are inspirations and are a blessing to everyone you meet!

    Keep going strong and don't let anything get you down. Your ability to make such a big impact on me being half way across the world means you are sincerely a genuinely special person.

    I have started a blog for a class assignment but I am doing it on my Journey as well :) Thanks for giving me the strength to share my story!


  2. Dear Sara, I feel privileged that your path has crossed with ours and I'm sure this, as so many other things in my life, was predestined :). I'm very pleased to hear about your blog as this will give others the perspective from your side as the daughter of a patient. Giving others an honest and true insight on the impact of MSA on your life is very important and will help others understand MSA better. I wish you all the best with this project and I'm looking forward to reading and following your blog. Love, Sonja


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