The captain of the VKB Knights, Pite van Biljon, is currently busy with the biggest season of his life, and this is not just because he was named in the leadership role of the franchise, but off the field he is fighting a very personal battle.
Recently the top-order batsman became a father for the first time, and not long after the arrival of his baby daughter, Debi, the family was rocked with the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system, and despite it being the 21 century there is no known cure for the disorder.
Rather than just sit back, Van Biljon, in his typical fashion on the field of play, decided to fight the illness, and is using his craft to fight it.
Van Biljon has had specially designed decals made which have been stuck onto his bat, and other cricketers, not only at the Knights but in the country, are starting to follow suit.
The player told Bloemfontein Courant that at first the news came as a major shock, but he feels he can now make a difference.
“It was quite a shock at first, and when they did the tests I just said that I hope it is something positive. The lady who did the tests said ‘you don’t want this to be positive because she tested positive for cystic fibrosis’. So, we are only starting to get to grips with it now, but I think that is can still be years before we know what the extent of it is.
“At this stage all they can do it help ease it through physiotherapy, nebulising and medication. At the moment there is no cure, but the positive thing is that the medicine has made massive advances over the past five or six years, so we are hoping to continue down that road.”
A big positive for Van Biljon is that he was one of the six Knights cricketers who were draft into a team for the Mzansi Super League, which starts next month. The financial injection will go some way in helping the family.
“It is funny how things work. I was playing in England when I got the news, so I flew back and I didn’t get the money from there. I was worried about it because the contracts weren’t sorted out yet, but luckily the Knights extended my contract by two years,” says Van Biljon.
“Not knowing what was going with a family, getting drafted by the T20 Global League last year, and now being picked up in the new tournament is a massive help. Someone out there is definitely looking out for us.”
Van Biljon added that a there is no need for a person or family to battle cystic fibrosis on their own. There is help and support out there.
“It is not easy. It will take a bit of time to get used to the idea, but it’s not the end of the world. It obviously differs massively from person to person. There is help out there, the foundation is doing a lot of work, and the doctors and staff you have around you are very supportive. The cystic fibrosis community is very supportive, there are a lot of Facebook groups that go out of their way to help. So, there is a support network out there and you don’t have to do it on your own.” – MORGAN PIEK