500 bikers spend time with Debby

At the age of 49 she can write a book, pages filled with adventures on the seas and oceans of our world, of her younger days in Durban as president of a women’s bikers club, of a lodge in Mozambique, and now, having to come to terms with the reality of dying.

Debby Townsend is a patient at Stepping Stone Hospice & Care Services in New Market Park. Here she had to learn that her life-limiting illness is in fact terminal. And it’s here where she expressed a wish to just once more enjoy the company of some “good ole bikers”. For as much as she and her husband of 22 years, John, spend most of their time on yachts and sailboats, biking still seems to be very much part of her being.

Her sister, Sharon Wilson, discussed the idea with hospice staff. Brenda Peach, Stepping Stone’s events manager, jumped into action and created an event on Facebook "Coffee with Debby". The news spread like wild fire with the result that 500 bikers from as far as the Breede River district, Pretoria and the West Rand, arrived on Saturday 16 April to grant Debby her wish.

Surrounded by John and the rest of her family as well as her best friend Marion, Debby was overwhelmed with emotion when the bikers, led by Stepping Stone Hospice CEO, Tersia Burger, did a lap of honour on their bikes. “I don’t have the words to thank each and every one who came to spend time with me,” a tearful Debby said.

The “Get Up Woman” group from Alberton also came on board, organizing the boerie rolls, coffee, tea and colddrinks. Bikers surrounded Debby in the hospice garden, many praying for her, some sharing some biking stories, but mostly just to assure her that she will remain in their thoughts and prayers.

It was in July last year when Debby and John had to renew their permits to continue their yachts chartering business in the British Virgin Islands, that the first alarm bells re Debby’s health went off. “A CT scan revealed two tumors in the lungs. We flew to Puerto Rico where a lung biopsy was done and lung cancer was diagnosed,” John says.

The lives of this adventurous couple, who brought up their only daughter on their yacht, who fought off pirates near Georgetown, who faced a hurricane at sea, who took tourists through the Amazon, came to a screeching halt. “We flew back to South Africa to continue Debby’s medical care here. Initially we stayed at her sister, Sharon in Durban, but then came up to Kempton Park to be with our daughter and our grandchildren.”

Debby’s oncologist, dr Sylvia Rodriguez, referred her to Stepping Stone Hospice and after an initial visit to the In-Patient Unit, Debby decided to be checked in and be cared for in the facility.

“Debby is just such an incredible person, we lived the most awesome life and now we are surrounded by the most awesome people,” John concludes. As for the future, John is hesitant to answer. For now, he lives day to day, hardly ever leaving his wife’s side. It is clear the love these two people share, is as incredible as the life they have shared.

500bikers 1
Debby Townsend with husband John and granddaughter Caira (10).
500bikers 2
Overcome with emotion as bikers do a lap of honour on their bikes.
500bikers 3
Little Kara (3) from Walkerville sharing some “girl talk” with Debby.
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Members of the Litas RSA group praying with Debby.

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