MDS and #HenkStrength

Be prepared for a bit of a read and also to dig deep :)

I’ve been incredibly privileged throughout my life.  Coming from a small country-town in Western Australia, my parents taught me to work hard and gave me many opportunities to do what I love, and for this I’m forever grateful.  This provided me with opportunities to travel and work in many parts of the world, meeting amazing people that I can now call my mates.  They’ve always been there to chat, have a beer and encourage me to push my boundaries.  In particular over the last 5 years I’ve been lucky enough to compete and complete 6 Full-Distance Ironmans and 14 70.3 Ironmans.  The journey has been very rewarding and being able to share it with mates and family, that much more.

The Ironman journey, while rewarding has provided its challenges, but there has always been a couple of traits, that without, would have been so much harder… You have to be mentally strong as there are long days in training and race day, and when you just don’t want to start a session or just give up, you can’t give into those feelings;  Having a good discipline as there have been times that I’ve wanted to enjoy a beer or be lazy but you can’t fake an Ironman;  Finally belief in yourself that you can do anything that you apply yourself too.

So I’m doing Marathon Des Sables in April 2018 which is a 250km self-sustaining race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.  I’m pushing my limits again….and being certified as nuts J

In 2015 I moved to Dubai and was fortunate enough to meet some new mates.  One of these stood out from the crowd…John Henry van der Berg, affectionately known as Henk.  Standing at 1.97m tall and 120kg you could not miss him, he had a physical presence but also one that you know when he’s around.  What I learnt over a couple of meetings was a wonderful man that loved life and everyone he surrounded himself with.  I’m very privileged to have met him and wish we could have shared more moments.

Prior to me meeting him in June 2014, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (cancer) and told that he had about six months left to survive… doctors told him he would be lucky to see Christmas that year. Panic stations were hit, but when the ‘dust’ settled, through sheer determination and faith, Henk set off on a survival journey that saw him celebrate not one but three Christmases with beloved friends and family!  He lost this battle on the 26th April 2017.

I recognised a synergy between Henk with his belief, being mentally strong and discipline to fighting an awful disease and my own personal journey although they are two totally different things.  Thus I reached out to his wife Natasha and asked if I could dedicate running the MDS in honour of Henk, and in the process raise funds for a cause that meant something and would help future people in similar situations. 

Synergies don’t stop there, Natasha had mentioned the Khanya Hospice who helped care for Henk in his last few painful weeks fighting to the end.  Rural Hospice’s or Hospitals rely on volunteers and donations.  So I’m asking that you dig deep and donate in the memory of Henk.  You may not know Henk, but you may know someone that has battled with the Big C or a volunteer organisation.

Below are some words from his wife Natasha and a little more on the Khanya Hospice where all donations will go.  Long live #HenkStrength

About Henk

Born on 8 July 1969, John Henry (Henk) van der Berg lived life on a different level to most… At 1.97m tall, with 120kg of bulk and determination, he decimated competition whether as a South African Springbok athlete breaking records in shotput and discus, or on the rugby field as a junior provincial lock and scrumhalf. He never took in failure as an option, and faced every challenge head-on in the most direct way!

Yet, behind this forceful, hulking exterior was a shy and gentle man who was generous to a fault, loved the Lord with all his heart, and who wouldn’t hesitate to help somebody in need.

One of his proudest moments in life, other than the birth of his two daughters, Charlize and Nastasia, was when he received his Degree in Safety Management, which enabled him to work in the Middle East for just over a decade, and thereby supporting his immediate and extended family through tough times back in South Africa.

Fighting for Life

It was while he was working in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) that life brought Henk the biggest challenge he would ever face. In June 2014, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (cancer) and told that he had about six months left to survive… doctors told him he would be lucky to see Christmas that year. We hit all panic stations, but when the ‘dust’ settled, through sheer determination and faith, Henk set off on a survival journey that saw him celebrate not one but three Christmases with beloved friends and family!

With melanoma being generally chemo and radiation-resistant, Henk’s battle took him through three years of immunotherapy (treatment that basically supersizes the body’s own immune system to battle the cancer).

But during all this time, Henk still worked (full-time) and exercised almost daily, even running a few 3km and 5km desert races with friends in Dubai, keeping his and others’ hopes alive to beat the dreaded ‘Big C’.

Unfortunately, towards the end of 2016, the cancer suddenly spread rapidly throughout his body, and on 26 April 2017, his body succumbed to the disease.

Henk is survived by his daughters Charlize and Nastasia, and grandson, Landon, and his wife, Natasha.

About Khanya Hospice

During Henk’s last few week and his painful deterioration due to the spreading of the cancer, Khanya Hospice (a Hospice branch based in Umkomaas, on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa) were invaluable in the support and assistance they offered to Henk and his family. Their caring assistance included not only providing medical help, nursing care, equipment and medication but also emotional support without which Henk and his family would have been lost!

Khanya Hospice offers free palliative nursing care to patients with life threatening diseases such as cancer, HIV and TB within the Upper South Coast of the Kwazulu-Natal area in South Africa. Holistic care and support is provided to the patients and their families taking into account their physical,

emotional and spiritual wellbeing. During Henk’s last weeks, Hospice’s Sister Veronica and Neil McDonald were constantly available and provided incredible support!

Khanya Hospice contact numbers: 0027 39 [phone redacted] or 0027 83 [phone redacted]

Khanya Hospice contact email: [email redacted].za

Khanya Hospice website: www.khanyahospice.org.za

About The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA)

The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) is an Association incorporated under Section 21 of the Companies Act (Reg. No. 1986/001887/08). The hospice Association was founded in 1987 and is a membership organisation for South African hospices.

HPCA has seven regional association members within South Africa. During the last decade, HPCA has established national and provincial Palliative Care development structures aimed specifically and purposefully at support and capacity building of member hospices and more recently of partner organisations in terms of the provision of quality palliative care. HPCA is a national organisation operating in all nine provinces in South Africa with 134 member and affiliated hospices countrywide.

Its mission is to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement for all living with a life-threatening illness by supporting member hospices and partner organisations.

HPCA website: www.hpca.co.za

HPCA contact details: Tel: 0027 21 [phone redacted]; Fax: 0027 21 5311706 HPCA

Email: [email redacted].za

Quotes

“Henk was a force to be reckoned with, but at the same time, the kindest and most shy person who, despite his massive size and strength, loved to just sit back peacefully and watch the world go by. He loved life and he loved God. I found it incredibly ironic that the last few years of Henk’s life was a constant was battle for life…. As a health and safety manager, it was his job to keep others alive on their work sites, and ensure that they returned home, safe and sound each day to their families. He did this all the while battling for his own life, fighting cancer daily, to make it home to his own family!” (Henk’s wife Natasha van der Berg)Be prepared for a bit of a read and also to dig deep J

I’ve been incredibly privileged throughout my life.  Coming from a small country-town in Western Australia, my parents taught me to work hard and gave me many opportunities to do what I love, and for this I’m forever grateful.  This provided me with opportunities to travel and work in many parts of the world, meeting amazing people that I can now call my mates.  They’ve always been there to chat, have a beer and encourage me to push my boundaries.  In particular over the last 5 years I’ve been lucky enough to compete and complete 6 Full-Distance Ironmans and 14 70.3 Ironmans.  The journey has been very rewarding and being able to share it with mates and family, that much more.

The Ironman journey, while rewarding has provided its challenges, but there has always been a couple of traits, that without, would have been so much harder… You have to be mentally strong as there are long days in training and race day, and when you just don’t want to start a session or just give up, you can’t give into those feelings;  Having a good discipline as there have been times that I’ve wanted to enjoy a beer or be lazy but you can’t fake an Ironman;  Finally belief in yourself that you can do anything that you apply yourself too.

So I’m doing Marathon Des Sables in April 2018 which is a 250km self-sustaining race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.  I’m pushing my limits again….and being certified as nuts J

In 2015 I moved to Dubai and was fortunate enough to meet some new mates.  One of these stood out from the crowd…John Henry van der Berg, affectionately known as Henk.  Standing at 1.97m tall and 120kg you could not miss him, he had a physical presence but also one that you know when he’s around.  What I learnt over a couple of meetings was a wonderful man that loved life and everyone he surrounded himself with.  I’m very privileged to have met him and wish we could have shared more moments.

Prior to me meeting him in June 2014, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (cancer) and told that he had about six months left to survive… doctors told him he would be lucky to see Christmas that year. Panic stations were hit, but when the ‘dust’ settled, through sheer determination and faith, Henk set off on a survival journey that saw him celebrate not one but three Christmases with beloved friends and family!  He lost this battle on the 26th April 2017.

I recognised a synergy between Henk with his belief, being mentally strong and discipline to fighting an awful disease and my own personal journey although they are two totally different things.  Thus I reached out to his wife Natasha and asked if I could dedicate running the MDS in honour of Henk, and in the process raise funds for a cause that meant something and would help future people in similar situations. 

Synergies don’t stop there, Natasha had mentioned the Khanya Hospice who helped care for Henk in his last few painful weeks fighting to the end.  Rural Hospice’s or Hospitals rely on volunteers and donations.  So I’m asking that you dig deep and donate in the memory of Henk.  You may not know Henk, but you may know someone that has battled with the Big C or a volunteer organisation.

Below are some words from his wife Natasha and a little more on the Khanya Hospice where all donations will go.  Long live #HenkStrength

About Henk

Born on 8 July 1969, John Henry (Henk) van der Berg lived life on a different level to most… At 1.97m tall, with 120kg of bulk and determination, he decimated competition whether as a South African Springbok athlete breaking records in shotput and discus, or on the rugby field as a junior provincial lock and scrumhalf. He never took in failure as an option, and faced every challenge head-on in the most direct way!

Yet, behind this forceful, hulking exterior was a shy and gentle man who was generous to a fault, loved the Lord with all his heart, and who wouldn’t hesitate to help somebody in need.

One of his proudest moments in life, other than the birth of his two daughters, Charlize and Nastasia, was when he received his Degree in Safety Management, which enabled him to work in the Middle East for just over a decade, and thereby supporting his immediate and extended family through tough times back in South Africa.

Fighting for Life

It was while he was working in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) that life brought Henk the biggest challenge he would ever face. In June 2014, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (cancer) and told that he had about six months left to survive… doctors told him he would be lucky to see Christmas that year. We hit all panic stations, but when the ‘dust’ settled, through sheer determination and faith, Henk set off on a survival journey that saw him celebrate not one but three Christmases with beloved friends and family!

With melanoma being generally chemo and radiation-resistant, Henk’s battle took him through three years of immunotherapy (treatment that basically supersizes the body’s own immune system to battle the cancer).

But during all this time, Henk still worked (full-time) and exercised almost daily, even running a few 3km and 5km desert races with friends in Dubai, keeping his and others’ hopes alive to beat the dreaded ‘Big C’.

Unfortunately, towards the end of 2016, the cancer suddenly spread rapidly throughout his body, and on 26 April 2017, his body succumbed to the disease.

Henk is survived by his daughters Charlize and Nastasia, and grandson, Landon, and his wife, Natasha.

About Khanya Hospice

During Henk’s last few week and his painful deterioration due to the spreading of the cancer, Khanya Hospice (a Hospice branch based in Umkomaas, on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa) were invaluable in the support and assistance they offered to Henk and his family. Their caring assistance included not only providing medical help, nursing care, equipment and medication but also emotional support without which Henk and his family would have been lost!

Khanya Hospice offers free palliative nursing care to patients with life threatening diseases such as cancer, HIV and TB within the Upper South Coast of the Kwazulu-Natal area in South Africa. Holistic care and support is provided to the patients and their families taking into account their physical,

emotional and spiritual wellbeing. During Henk’s last weeks, Hospice’s Sister Veronica and Neil McDonald were constantly available and provided incredible support!

Khanya Hospice contact numbers: 0027 39 [phone redacted] or 0027 83 [phone redacted]

Khanya Hospice contact email: [email redacted].za

Khanya Hospice website: www.khanyahospice.org.za

About The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA)

The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) is an Association incorporated under Section 21 of the Companies Act (Reg. No. 1986/001887/08). The hospice Association was founded in 1987 and is a membership organisation for South African hospices.

HPCA has seven regional association members within South Africa. During the last decade, HPCA has established national and provincial Palliative Care development structures aimed specifically and purposefully at support and capacity building of member hospices and more recently of partner organisations in terms of the provision of quality palliative care. HPCA is a national organisation operating in all nine provinces in South Africa with 134 member and affiliated hospices countrywide.

Its mission is to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement for all living with a life-threatening illness by supporting member hospices and partner organisations.

HPCA website: www.hpca.co.za

HPCA contact details: Tel: 0027 21 [phone redacted]; Fax: 0027 21 5311706 HPCA

Email: [email redacted].za

Quotes

“Henk was a force to be reckoned with, but at the same time, the kindest and most shy person who, despite his massive size and strength, loved to just sit back peacefully and watch the world go by. He loved life and he loved God. I found it incredibly ironic that the last few years of Henk’s life was a constant was battle for life…. As a health and safety manager, it was his job to keep others alive on their work sites, and ensure that they returned home, safe and sound each day to their families. He did this all the while battling for his own life, fighting cancer daily, to make it home to his own family!” (Henk’s wife Natasha van der Berg)

Donations

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  • Rebecca Johnston  
    • $50 
    • 36 mos
  • Jamie White 
    • $100 
    • 36 mos
  • Gina Jardine  
    • $150 
    • 36 mos
  • Jo & Jonathan 
    • $70 
    • 37 mos
  • Lauren Lewis 
    • $40 
    • 37 mos
See all

Organizer

Simon Wood 
Organizer
Cowcowing, WA
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