Cancer Fighter Cuts Hair and Donates to Charity to Make Wigs for Others
Written by CCFM on April 22, 2022
Johannesburg, South Africa (20 April 2022) – Sandi Pitchers Keel, 58-years old, affectionately known as ‘DirtBarbie’, has always taken life by the horns and knows a thing or two about endurance and the road less travelled. Now she is taking on her greatest challenge, fighting a rare form of cancer!
For the last 18 years, Sandi has been a member of the motorcycling community, racing 1000cc superbikes, taking on national Supermoto, enduro, cross-country and a bit of MX racing, and she even conquered the legendary KTM 500.
“Sandi is a very strong-willed and self-determined individual. She has nerves of steel which is a great attribute for her riding adventures. She strongly believes in justice for all and is willing to help anyone when she can. Even though she does not have much she is always the first to put her hand in her pocket to help someone in need.” says her sister, Tracy
Her life changed after she had an accident during recent travels. On 17 December 2021, while travelling through the Eastern and Western Cape, Sandi’s riding partner accidentally drove into the back of her bike just outside Gariep dam. Her injuries were manageable, and the bike needed some fixing, so she spent ten days recovering at her sister’s home in Jeffreys Bay. Once all was repaired, Sandi made her way home.
On 18 January 2022, exactly one month after her accident, Sandi was admitted to Mulbarton Hospital after a weekend spent coughing, vomiting, and eventually throwing up blood. She went through a whirlwind of medical issues, from swelling due to her drip to reacting badly to medicines that sent her into anaphylaxis. Doctors were working tirelessly to figure out what was wrong. She was transferred to the Donald Gordon Hospital on the 4th of February, 2022, where she underwent three debridement operations on her arm for the drip damage and a gastroscopy, which revealed an extensive infection from malnutrition.
It was only after doctors ran a series of blood tests that they realised the root of Sandi’s symptoms for which she was initially admitted. Sandi was finally diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Small Cell Carcinoma with Paraneoplastic Syndrome, a rare, aggressive cancer that started as lung cancer.
On the 16th of February 2022, ‘rebel heart’ on full display, Sandi snuck out of her bed after 30 days in hospital and met her sister Tracy in the parking lot to address the hair dilemma cancer posed. The pair made their getaway to IamBrett salon for virtue and not vanity, hellbent on transforming Sandi’s trademark platinum locks into a ‘short and sassy’ grey hairdo to create wigs for The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).
“After having long blonde hair, which so many admired, it was indeed my crowning glory. I knew that the journey ahead would see me losing it, so I thought why waste it when it can be put to good use to help those cancer patients that need wigs for their cancer journeys. And so it was an easy decision to make.” – says Sandi.
Thanking the pit crew who facilitated the makeover, Sandi said it was one of the best experiences of her life and “something every girl has to do at least once in their lifetime.”