Presently doing her PhD in infectious disease TB & Hiv in musculoskeletal tuberculosis patients
A family member shared Neal’s 2Feet4TB post from Facebook and after reading his incredible journey and how he has decided to grab life by both hands, I decided he was someone I needed to meet.
Being in the world of infectious disease research, of both TB and HIV, I was really interested in Neal’s story and how despite all his challenges, he has chosen to get up every day and live life to its fullest. To have suffered immensely but to have risen up and achieved so much, especially with sport and exercise, is truly inspirational.
Not only was his story medically and scientifically interesting but psychologically too. I wanted to know more about this incredibly positive human and how strong, both mentally and physically, he is.
It was the perfect opportunity – I was part of a team organising a research day symposium at the Orthopaedic Department at Groote Schuur Hospital, and we were on the search for inspirational speakers to present, Neal was the first to come to my mind. We had not met, not spoken yet, but I contacted him and got a warm response – to my request for him to come present to an audience of doctors, registrars, surgeons and trainees- saying he would “love to”.
From that moment on, Neal shared many incredible parts of his journey with me, from photographs of his marathons and cycling activities to positive manifestation videos and the beautiful song written by Marthie called “Life is a gift (We can all be heroes)”.
We were in constant contact up until the day of the symposium where we met and he greeted me with the warmest hug. I was so grateful that he made such an effort to be at our symposium and to share his journey and life lessons with us. For him, it may have been daunting standing up in front of such an audience of esteemed professional orthopaedic members, but that definitely did not come across in his talk nor in his many positive interactions with the audience throughout the day.
It was also a great opportunity for him to promote his cause and encourage many of the runners and cyclists in the department, to join and run for TB. I feel is a great cause to run for.
Despite all his challenges in life, Neal remains positive, strong, enthusiastic and powerful. He has chosen to rise up and beat TB and advocates and encourages people to talk about TB, to remove the stigma associated with TB, to choose a positive life after being treated for TB and to share only positivity with the world – that takes immense strength and courage.
I am in awe of how much he trains, how many races and marathons he has completed since his diagnosis and treatment, and how many he still plans to run. His commitment to outreach is also incredible. I believe everyone can learn many lessons from Neal and I look forward to learning more as we interact more.
I am proud of Neal. I am incredibly proud to know Neal.
Onwards and upwards, always.