Speech by Sherry Smit at the AGM of the KZN Kidney Association held in Durban on 16 July 2007.  

Good evening ladies & gentlemen.  

My name is Sherry Smit and I am 18 years old.    Many people, including myself, did not think I would be here today, the body and person I am.  

Eleven years ago I was a normal, healthy child playing sports, in the sun, until I contracted an illness called SLE which stands for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.    In Latin ‘lupus’ means wolf as you don’t know where it will attack next.  In my case it attacked my kidneys.  

At the age of 8 years I thought my life was over as I had SLE which is an auto immune disease which causes the immune system to NOT recognise the organs and attacks them, killing them off.   It is your own body killing itself off instead of working to defend itself.    Fortunately I was seen by Prof. R Bhimma who got me on to chemotherapy which I had intravenously for 3 years.   I am now on oral chemo twice daily and cortisone – intravenously – once a month.   

As one can imagine, when the treatment started I swelled up like the Oros Orange man.  My veins started to collapse from all the chemo so a port was inserted in my chest.  It runs up to my neck and down the jugular vein to just above my heart.   I am in hospital every two weeks for flushing of the port.  

Due to the illness affecting my kidneys and the involvement of the kidneys, we came into contact with the KZN Kidney Association.   It is through their love and support that I have become the positive person I am today.  The KZNKA helped, supported and gave hope, not only to myself but to many other children and their parents by sponsoring, supporting and helping with our yearly Renal Christmas Party, which is held for children suffering with renal illnesses, to give them some joy and hope.   I was one of those children who benefited from these activities and now, today, help out and give of my time to make other children just as happy.    Through the KZNKA’s support we were able to make the Christmas parties more exciting and memorable by arranging helicopter flights, trips on rescue boats thanks to National Sea Rescue and Scooters Pizzas, presents from Santa Claus, etc.   These were opportunities of a lifetime for children who spend their time in hospitals and at home, and who don’t often have a life.    The smiles on the children’s faces are heart warming: if their ears weren’t there their smiles would go right round their faces!  

Seeing positive people keeping busy helping out with the Christmas parties and being part of the KZN Kidney Association has helped me take my mind off my situations in life.   Helping others gives me a purpose and vision in life to keep fighting and move forward, as life is too short to let the little things get you down.

Reach for a Dream also played a huge part in my life when they fulfilled some of my dreams.   I needed to experience the extreme and accomplished this when they gave me the opportunity to go sky diving.   The adventure and sense of freedom that I felt when I jumped out of the ‘plane at 9000 feet in the air was breathtaking and awesome.  All I can say is you have to experience it to believe it.    This is only one of the many wonderful experiences through Reach for a Dream.  

I have come to find in life that many people have given up and lost their inner spirit and will, which is very sad as everyone has their ups and downs.   It is true that there are many that one cannot control, but one thing that is for sure is that you can control your own happiness, even if that is the last and only thing we ever do.  

I am a very caring and positive person with an extremely soft heart.  I enjoy helping people and that is why I have chosen a career in nursing, as by being a nurse I can make just a little bit of difference in someone else’s life.   This makes me happy as I know personally how it feels to be a patient in hospital and quite frankly it is extremely depressing and uncomfortable: you have no control as you are in an unfamiliar environment with strangers around you.  Hair raising!  

Before I end off I want to leave you all with something someone very wise once told me:  “One day I asked God how much He loved me and He opened His arms and died on the cross to save me.”     That is how much God loves us.  We should respect Him by making the most of our lives and opportunities as He just wants the best for all of us.  

God Bless – and thank you for your time.