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Humans

Jonathan Weiner – My cousin Michelle by Sandy L

When I think of Michelle, I think about her warm smile and big heart. It is a strange thing, death. It is something we can never understand. It forces questions that lead to dead ends. I know she had an impact on my life and so many others, I hope that brings some comfort to all who feel her loss. 

Jonathan, you are South African born, studying medicine in Australia?
Yes, I was born in South Africa on the 23 January 1992. I had lived in South Africa for all my life. Having done all my schooling there at King David. I studied a Bachelor of Biomedical Health Sciences at Wits and graduated in 2013. I tried to get into medicine there but was not successful. I applied to study medicine in Australia, I had an interview and was accepted. I am now in my 2nd year and absolutely loving it.

Have you always wanted to be a doctor?
For as long as I can remember. People often ask me why I want to be a doctor which I find difficult to answer. I am not sure why I want to be a doctor, there are many factors that contributed to my decision to study medicine. Perhaps it is my personality and constant desire to help people and make a difference in the lives of others. Perhaps it is the fact that my family has been severely impacted by adverse health outcomes to which I wish I was able to help them and make them feel better. Perhaps it is my absolute fascination with how the human body works and how the disease processes begin. It was multifactorial but I can say with extreme confidence that I absolutely love what I study and I am passionate about the world of medicine. I am excited for the day when I can make a difference in people’s lives and help them.

Your cousin died recently of brain cancer it has become your mission to help find a cure….?
My beautiful cousin Michelle was always a big part of my life. Our mothers are sisters and they have always instilled in us a strong sense of family. We grew up, up until Michelle got married, living about 10 houses away from each other. Seeing each other nearly every day and spending copious amounts of time together both in at home and on holiday. When thinking about Michelle now, I feel sick to my stomach. There are no words to describe the emotions I feel when I think about her and what happened (in fact I have tears in my eyes as I type this). Her life was just becoming perfect, having met the man of her dreams and having given birth to my perfect little cousin Jesse.

It all began in September last year, where by coincidence I was in South Africa. From the day they found something until the day she died, my poor cousin suffered in the most extreme sense. Studying medicine, I was determined to use anything that I had learned to try and help her in any way. Whether alternate or western medicines, I was going to find something that could at least make her feel better. Unfortunately, the cancer was too severe and my knowledge far inferior. Michele’s brain cancer was one of the most, if not the most, lethal cancer known to man. It is highly aggressive and extremely malignant, Glioblastoma Multiforme. Having seen her suffer, I was quite fascinated that there was just nothing that could be done to help her. How could a disease have more power over man and the 21st-century medical world?

Having always dreamed of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, I find myself conflicted now. I now am really interested in neurology and cancer. If not a finding a cure, I definitely want to make sure that people don’t suffer the way my cousin did. No one deserves to experience what she did.

You’re running in Sydney’s city2surf In order to help raise funds for cancer research? First off tell us more about city2surf as well as your other initiative to raise funds?
The city2surf is a 14km race from the Sydney CBD to the famous Bondi Beach. It’s a beautiful course and has about 80 000 people who compete. Many charities take part in the race from all aspects. I will be running with the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. As of this moment, I have raised $ 17 316.77

What is your message to anyone fighting cancer?
My message would be to never give up. As cliche as it might sound, no one is God and although doctors do know a great deal about medicine, diseases and their pathophysiology they do not know how the person will react. Always remain positive and fight with everything you have. Don’t listen to statistics, there as always outliers.