A mother’s worst nightmare

IN 2011 Sharleigh Wilken visited the doctor’s office in Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal with her youngest son who had the flu; by chance she mentioned to the doctor that she had noticed excessive bruising on her arms and legs.

The doctor examined her body and noticed other huge dark bruises all over her body, nine in total. She could see his expression change when he requested a blood test be done immediately.

Sharleigh, aged 33, went for her tests and while waiting in the surgery she sat and took out her phone: “Google…Search…Excessive bruising…Leukaemia”.

When Joy Collins, a born and bred Eastern Cape woman, Sharleigh’s mother, heard the news that her daughter’s red blood cells were being “eaten”, her immune system was zero, her platelet levels on 17, and that she needed blood transfusions immediately, an unimaginable fear gripped her heart.

More tests confirmed Sharleigh had aggressive acute promyelocyctic leukaemia (APL).

For the next three years the world became a frightening whirlwind of hospital visits, medical prognosis, child minding, uprooting and displacing, picking up the pieces, and desperately clinging to God’s mercy.

Sharleigh’s mom and dad endured a devastating blow when their daughter became ill. A true story, Hello Shar, can you hear me? is a mother’s intimate account of perseverance, unfailing faith and love beyond all measure during the recovery of her daughter.

Collins’ harrowing tale of hope, survival and a mother and father’s love for their child will pull at every heartstring and kick you in the gut. It will remind one that something as basic as breathing by oneself is a luxury and milestone for those standing at death’s door.

“Every day I walked into the ICU ward and said aloud to her, ‘Hello Shar, can you hear me?’”

Sharleigh, a young mother of two, was put through a test so severe, life-threatening and life-changing. Was trust in God’s unfailing love enough to surround her and heal her? Did the family have enough faith for a miracle?

After receiving multiple chemo treatments and nearly 100 days in hospital, Sharleigh relapsed when her leukaemia returned, hiding in her spinal fluid.

“Sitting at the lounge of the Port Elizabeth airport, I felt as though a voice whispered in my ear and said, life as you know, is about to change. You are entering a fight; the fight that you are entering into will need swords,” said Collins.

In a matter of three weeks, Sharleigh was on oxygen, the spinal lumber punctures of chemo were working to kill leukaemia cells but she was getting weaker and weaker

It wasn’t long and Sharleigh slipped into a coma.

“The doctor couldn’t understand what was happening or how this had happened. He continued to say, only God can help now,” said Collins.

“She lay helplessly on numerous drips – saline, chemo, numerous platelets transfusions, catheter, nutrition, antibiotics, and a ventilator which breathed for her. Her chemo was now As203.”

Hello Shar, can you hear me? is written for every mother, cancer survivor and family member who has been touched by this dreaded disease. It is a book that will haunt you and renew your faith in the Almighty.

Collins will be having a book launch on Friday at Decadent at the Postmasters Village for those who would like to hear about how Sharleigh won the greatest battle of her life, and how her cavalry stood by armed with mighty swords each step of the way. The launch will be from 2.30 – 4pm and copies of the book will be available for purchase.