The death at the weekend of radio journalist Monica Fairall is a blow to progressive health thinking in South Africa. Fairall’s radio show Pathways to Health has been a powerful and groundbreaking voice for the recognition of integrative healing.
Fairall died at the age of 60 after a battle with myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
Myeloma is a rare and difficult cancer, and Fairall’s diagnosis, last September, was the beginning of an ugly fight. After some debate over treatment with both her doctor and the medical aids, she was put onto a very aggressive form of treatment using thalidomide and warfarin. “She was having dreadful side effects that compromised her immune system,” writes friend and collaborator Deirdre Allen, of the Health Products Association (HPA). “However, she remained positive and believed that she would beat the disease.
“She was to remain on this protocol for another two months and then she was expecting to have a bone marrow transplant – using her own bone marrow.
“She was admitted to hospital on Friday. We received text messages from her and she seemed to be recovering and was expected to be discharged.”
Sad irony in her death
Then, on Sunday, Fairall died – not of the cancer per se, but of a massive pulmonary embolism, a complication linked to pneumonia, which was a consequence of the stress her immune system was under. There is a sad irony to this: she had held the hand of poet Douglas Livingstone through his losing battle with cancer in the 90s, after which she wrote a book about it, Challenge Cancer the Holistic Way.
Fairall has been in the public eye, more or less since 1971, when she became Miss South Africa. Over the years she has been a DJ on radio, a musician and actress, and a yoga instructor; but she was perhaps best known recently as a health journalist, with a particular interest in holistic healing and natural medicine.
She leaves her husband of 18 months, Professor Robert Morrell of the University of KwaZulu Natal, and his two daughters, as well as a community that is saddened by the stilling of an important voice.
Read more: Living proof: a medical mutiny
(Heather Parker, Health24, June 2009)