It’s not all glamour, frocks and smiles – there’s heartache
GORGEOUS gowns, immaculate hair and skin: all the wonderful and impressive things to see at a beauty pageant.
Many young women aspire to be on stage and work towards beauty pageant titles. But beneath all the glamour and “perfect” image, some contestants are dealing with emotional issues.
Michelle Bekker, 35, is one of the 25 finalists vying for the Tammy Taylor Mrs South Africa title. She is a beauty queen who knows what it is like to be admired by the world, while also having faced agonising situations.
In 2006, her husband, Jaco Bekker, was diagnosed with melanoma (cancer of the skin). Last year, she lost her sister to lung cancer.
Speaking in Cape Town recently during a fund-raising event for the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa), Bekker described that period as one of her “toughest journeys” in life.
Bekker is required to raise awareness and raise funds for Cansa – the main beneficiary of Tammy Taylor Mrs South Africa.
She says since her husband’s diagnosis, cancer has been very close to her heart.
It was 11 years ago when he went to the doctor to have his routine check-up when they discovered the melanoma.
“My husband was perfectly healthy and we did not see that coming.”
She says juggling family, managing an events company, and dealing with a sick husband was challenging but it made her stronger and appreciate life more.
Bekker’s husband, who prefers to call himself a cancer victor rather than a survivor, admitted that accepting the news that he had cancer was difficult.
“At first, I wanted to hide it because I couldn’t bring myself to telling everyone. But after realising that it was too much of a secret to keep I told people and spoke about it. It gave me liberty and gave my family, friends and colleagues the opportunity to support me,” he said.
He has been in remission for 11 years.
“Since my diagnosis we… as a family try to live to the fullest as tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. We appreciate every moment we have together… our time to laugh and play together,” he said.
With only two months left before Mrs South Africa is crowned in November, Bekker continues to inspire aspiring beauty queens and families affected by cancer.
“One can never be prepared to hear a family member, a friend or even if it’s just someone they know.
“When my sister was also diagnosed with lung cancer, she fought for a few months but lost the battle in November, leaving two beautiful kids behind and our family shattered,” she said.
Cansa says this year’s proceeds will go towards the purchase of two new FotoFinders (a mole-mapping dermatoscopy device for examining moles and spots).
Last year, the finalists raised more than R1 million.
Cansa’s Marica Basson said: “South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia.
“At least 20 000 South Africans are diagnosed annually with non-melanoma skin cancers, and about 1 500 are diagnosed with melanoma,” she added.
She advised people to do annual dermatology tests so that skin cancer could be detected early.