TNHF Scholar Battles Cancer, Starts College, and Wears Her TNHF Shirt On The First Day of School!
An Inspirational Look at the Obstacles our Students Overcome
Even at the age of 18, Shakeelah Abraham’s life is a powerful testimony of miracles and perseverance.“I was faced with so many obstacles and challenges- some of which many people would not even be able to survive,” reflects Shakeelah.
Despite all the obstacles, Shakeelah showed immense courage and fought through to pursue her dream of further education.
Shakeela poses at the University of Western Cape - in her TNHF shirt!
At a very young age Shakeelah was introduced to a disease that would become a reoccurring part of her story when both her great-grandmother and aunt suffered and died from cancer. At the time, she was too young to understand what cancer was, but unfortunately this was only the beginning.
Towards the end of ninth grade, Shakeelah noticed some changes taking place in her body. She experienced severe muscle pains, which eventually numbed her hands, arms, and feet. “Performing my daily rituals became a struggle and there were times I lost complete control of my body.” Shakeelah was taken to a clinic and tests were run. She was diagnosed with Chairi Malformation One, which is a cancer where the brain is too big for the skull, causing pressure on the spinal cord. Doctors explained that without surgery, there would be severe consequences for her life. The family decided to go through with the surgery and the operation was able to save Shakeelah’s life.
In 2008, Shakeelah and her family were shocked when her grandmother suddenly died from breast cancer.
By then, life events had convinced and ignited a passion in Shakeelah to pursue a career in Biotechnology. “Her death inspired me to set goals for myself and not waste time.” Shakeelah’s first goal was to work hard so that she could go to college.
In 2010, Shakeelah began feeling abdominal pains that were discovered to be the first stages of pancreatic cancer. Even with her family’s history, Shakeelah was shocked to discover that she too had cancer. Though upset that she was diagnosed during her pursuit of college, Shakeelah found strength in her mother’s courageous example. “She told me that God would never put a burden too much on me that is too heavy to handle.” With this new development, Shakeelah and her family made her health their first priority. She was disappointed that cancer had created an obstacle in her plans for college, but instead she focused on recovering. When Shakeelah fully recovered, she dove back into her studies with a new vigor, but also the recognition that she had to take care of herself.
Shakeela and her very proud parents on the first day of school
A bit blurry, but don't you just love her?!
Since her family is not wealthy and was already struggling to pay medical bills, Shakeelah hoped for scholarships. At school, Shakeelah was introduced to Operations Director Edwin Louw and Programme Director Elizabeth Benninger from These Numbers Have Faces. Shakeelah applied and interviewed for TNHF’s scholarship programme. Shakeelah was accepted into the programme and we are happy to announce that she is currently in her first year at the University of the Western Cape studying Biotechnology.
“I will always be grateful to These Numbers Have Faces for granting me a second chance to life and the opportunity to invest in me. Through my experience I learned to believe in myself and keep my faith no matter how hard the situation. I’m grateful for what I’ve been blessed with and to those at TNHF who helped me to reach my dream. I am back on track.”
Shakeelah proudly wore her TNHF shirt to her first day of classes.