Nikki ‘Lettie’ Haynes was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in January of 2012. After a 9 Month treatment regime at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH), Nikki had a Lumpectomy and was given a tentative all clear. 8 months later after feeling pains in her left Shoulder, Nikki underwent a bone scan only to receive the devastating news that her cancer had metastasized and was not curable. Nikki fought like a Trojan for the next year and the strength and grace that she forged onward with, created a legacy that has spilled over into the organization you are now reading about. Nikki passed away on the 12th July 2014 and left behind her husband and 3 kids.
During Nikki’s battle, the family undertook various fundraising initiatives to help them cope with the crippling bills of cancer treatment. After Nikki passed, the family had the funds left over and knew that they had to be stewarded in a manner that would continue Nikki’s legacy and also help people fighting this dreadful disease. Cancer is a radically expensive illness and cannot be fought rand for rand. After a few attempts to help people with expensive radiation or chemotherapy treatments, Nikki’s husband, Zoog, knew he needed to find a more sustainable farther reaching initiative to invest the money into.
In November of 2014, Zoog was approached by the Thangavay family to assist with their father who was fighting throat cancer. Mr Thangavay was facing the possibility of not attending his radiotherapy treatment as he couldn’t get there and no one else in his family had a driver’s license or a vehicle. Zoog managed to sign him up with the organisation, Uber, and effectively get Mr Thangavay to and from his treatment in a comfortable, dignified and safe manner. It was then that Zoog saw the light and how Nikki’s legacy would continue - through the provision of a free door to door transport service to those people in underprivileged areas and communities fighting cancer. The organisation was aptly named - The Lettie Love Fund (LLF)
The next 6 months were dedicated to raising R 150 000 to help buy a car and employ a driver so that the dream could become a reality. During this time only 2 more obstacles really stood in the way of The Lettie Love Fund beginning to achieve its vision of placing a set of car keys in the hands of every cancer patient in the developing world. Firstly, was permission to operate as a NPO within the ambit of the hospital or treatment center. As Nikki had started her treatment at IALCH and because it is one of the leading government facilities in the country, Zoog approached the head of oncology to present the concept. It was accepted with much excitement and IALCH general management endorsed a trial period to test the waters. Secondly was the patient acceptance of the service - would they be willing or have the need to receive this service. That fear was laid to bed within the first 12 days of operation with the fund being oversubscribed and having to now look for additional funds to buy more vehicles and hire more drivers.
Since the 12th August 2015, The Lettie Love Fund has transported over 40 patients covering some 9000 kilometres in the process. The feedback from patients and their families has been overwhelming. What started as a family’s battle against breast cancer has developed into an organisation that practically helps to eliminate one of the major headaches and challenges cancer patients in South Africa face - access to reliable, on time, affordable and most importantly safe transport.