Can’t Afford Cancer Treatment

Gail Mitchell smiles bravely for the camera.

Gail Mitchell: “I’m chin up, chin up.”

Gail Mitchell only learnt that she has stage III cervical cancer a month ago. Tomorrow, the 55-year-old co-head of Mitchells’ Mission in Sanddrift will get the results of a recent biopsy. Things don’t look good…

The cancer may have spread to Gail’s liver, her family fears. The family is desperate as they can’t pay for medical treatment, and waiting for treatment at a state hospital may take too long. Some of the 35 residents (22 youngsters and 17 women) in the mission in Eshowe Street are angry. They are asking: Why did Gail have to get cancer?

‘We’re desperate’
Gail’s daughter-in-law Shannon bustles about her bedroom, talking about the regimen of vitamins, apricot seeds, raw vegetables and oily fish which is supposed to help Gail. A print-out of the diet is at hand. No dairy, no sugar, no white rice, no potatoes, the women recite in unison. “Oh, and you can’t have this,” Shannon says of the Dolmades that a friend has just brought.

Gail and Shannon.

Shannon says, “We’re desperate.”

Gail puts up a brave front. “I’m chin up, chin up, sister,” she tells someone over the phone. When the call ends, she admits that the previous day was bad. She couldn’t keep her food or apricot seeds down. Another visitor walks into the bedroom. “I’m gonna be fine,” Gail says, warding off the flow of sympathy. “God is good. I’m gonna fight it. As I eat better, I can feel it. I’m gonna be positive.”

Mission may shut down
But talking exhausts her, and when I walk out of the room and glance behind me, I see Gail lying doubled over with pain. The result of the biopsy is the main worry. But there’s another one. Mitchells’ Mission may have to close down as Eshowe street is not zoned for business. The Mitchells say they’ve been asking that the street be rezoned for the past 4-5 year. “It is not that we want to be illegal. Cops and social workers drop kids here all the time.” A writ has been served, giving the Mitchells until the 6th of May to get rid of the 35 people in the mission. When asked where the writ is Shannon looks around vaguely, and gives up. There’s too much to manage at the moment to be able to find a piece of paper conveying threatening words. For the moment, this is all the Mitchells can do. Hope that things will change for the better, and soon.

Do you want to help Gail?

When donating, make the title of the payment GAILSFUND
Account number: 4081522885
Account Holder: Mark Mitchell
Branch: Century City ABSA bank
Branch Code: 632005
SWIFT code: ABSAZAJJ ( if international donor

For more information visit and




Do you want to get the latest news from Enter your email address and click subscribe.