A Joy Stoke lockdown journey with Matt Bromley-a life riding waves and the waves of life

matt bromley big wave surfing

Waves of life


waves of change



This time in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic has given me more time to sit and research the stories I want to tell. Whilst doing that, I have come across some awesome pictures as well as written memories. Here’s a little something I wrote in February 2015 – the day I finished 5 months of chemotherapy.


“As I look back at what we have faced so far, I see only a few dark spots and so many blessings- most of all I see my rock, my positive, gentle and amazing soulmate Heath and our incredibly precious Ka’lea and Koa. So blessed to have a fullness of life when many do not have this. I do still have to face and look at the future in some of the decisions on this journey, but oh boy am I overwhelmed with a superb and wonderful life in the present!!! And so many laughs on the way already: thank you for the gift of laughter- truly God smiling down on me! This has been some of the medicine for my soul along with seawater, sand and sun! What a wave  rough spots, smooth spots, a few close-outs, but a beautiful open faced long ride ahead. “

Belinda surfing after chemotherapy for breast cancer on Spider Murphy board


I had tried to get into the ocean whenever I could during my chemo and in between surgeries. The energy in that magical place was a life-charging force and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do that.

A life riding waves

With lockdown in South Africa, the beaches have been closed for the moment. It has us longing for just a small dose of that salty, liquid power.  And so, as I pondered waves and life stories, I got thinking about people who ride actual ocean waves and in particular, BIG waves. I may have ridden my own BIG life wave a couple of times, but I lack the adrenalin and guts needed to ride the really big ocean variety ones. But I have had the privilege of meeting someone who does really love to ride these BIG waves. And not only was I amazed at his physical ability, but I also found his outlook and life approach to be a very positive and inspiring one.

Meet Matt Bromley, a professional surfer who travels the globe searching for the riskiest and biggest waves. His social media presence shows some fabulous footage of these awesome wave rides. But I love that he also uses these platforms to express his love and commitment to his wife, family and friends. Matt has also designed online surf courses and during this tough time in South Africa he has been donating half of all online sales to community programs with feeding schemes like the 9 Miles project in Cape Town.

matt bromley big wave surfing


I decided to get in touch with Matt and he gave me some insight into his life during  South African lockdown and his thoughts about it all.  

Exercise in lockdown


“ We have been getting very creative with exercise. I have been tying a surf leash around my ankle and secured it to the side of the pool and then doing resistance swimming. We have also set up a tennis net between two pillars and have been playing some awesome matches. And lastly, my wife and I have been doing regular workouts in the car park at our apartment block.”


Mental and spiritual health


“I doubt that there will ever be a time again such as this to reflect. In amongst our busy schedules, there is little space for self awareness. Or even things like setting goals or asking what is the purpose behind what I am doing. I have really tried to be productive with self reflection in this time and it has been awesome! I have really thought about the WHY behind what I do. Why do I ride big waves and what is the purpose behind this. All this thought has given me a  new fire to chase bigger waves 🙂

I think my faith has played a big role in my confidence in the future. It is so uncertain for all of us. Everyday I wake up and spend 30 minutes reading my Bible and meditating and I feel such peace and confidence that His plan is still in motion. I feel that I am in God’s hands and that He will still complete His good work in me that He purposed for me since the beginning of time:)

I think I have really had a sense of how I can add value to people. If we all woke up and thought,”How can I add value to someone today?”, I think  our city would be a very different place. I have stuck that splurb on my bathroom mirror and each day I am trying to add value to someone through encouragement, a phone call or donating money. It has felt really fulfilling.”


Life after LOCkdOWN


“I am so excited to get back into the water. Oh my word! I have been watching surf movies and I am really craving some good waves. Other than that I also cannot wait to see family and friends.

Oh, and to actually start adding that value to people in person. I think that after lockdown I would like to try and think less of myself and my issues and have an “other” centred approach. I would love to be able to help build people up daily. That would be amazing.”

Lockdown insights


“I just want to encourage everyone to be outward focused. Thinking of who might need help in this time that we can send a message to, or offer a kind word of encouragement to. Or which outreaches we can donate to or at least spread the news of their good deeds. Let’s look out for our neighbours and be grateful for what we have.”


Thank you Matt for taking the time to share some of your amazing personal thoughts and insights. I am so stoked that I asked and that you answered with such honesty and enthusiasm. I will be hoping you get to ride those awesome giant ocean swells very soon. But in the meantime, I hope you will find much joy in adding value to other people’s lives and may your outward focused ideas and actions inspire many. I am thinking collective power here –  more people thinking like you and creating a giant wave of positivity and selflessness. 


Matt Bromley


And so on that idealistic and hopeful note, I leave you with the last bit of what I wrote on that last day of chemo in February 2015.  And not only do these words still represent my personal hopes and aspirations and the motivation behind The Joy Stoke, but I think they also reflect the awesome journey that Matt is on too.

“Hoping to carve a beautiful picture along my wave and maybe bring forth a little peace and joy, just like our magical ocean stores in its perfect aqua tubes!! Gratitude all the way!!”



Share the Joy- Spread the Stoke

stoking joy


A journey with cancer warriors and their take on Covid-19

terry fox marathon of hope for cancer

I watched a documentary the other night on a young Canadian called Terry Fox. He had aggressive osteosarcoma at a young age and died at 22. But in that short time and while trying to fight an aggressive disease he managed to inspire a nation and the world. He attempted to run a marathon a day across Canada as a fundraiser for cancer. And he did this on a prosthetic leg as his leg had been amputated in an attempt to stop the spread of his cancer. This got me thinking about the mindset of cancer warriors and cancer survivors. And I wondered whether there would be anything in the cancer journey that had given them a different perspective on Covid-19.

Warrior tools

I started thinking about some very special individuals that I have had the privilege of working with in my job as a physiotherapist. They too had aggressive cancers. Sadly, some of them did not win the battle. They stay with me in my heart. But there were also many who did survive. And I wondered how cancer had influenced their outlook. And if they felt they had acquired any tools in their toolboxes that would help with facing a worldwide pandemic. I got hold of them and they very kindly shared some of their thoughts with me.


Karin had osteosarcoma at age 17. She had aggressive chemotherapy and a radical surgery to save her femur and knee joint where the tumour was located. This meant that she spent at least a week in hospital every time she had chemotherapy. And then it took a few weeks at home to recover after those sessions as the chemotherapy is extremely aggressive for these cancers. The recovery and rehabilitation for her leg was also a slow and challenging process especially when she had to continue exercises during her chemo weeks so as not to lose range of motion and strength.

But Karin fought incredibly bravely through it all and is now a doctor and second year registrar specialising in orthopaedics at Tygerberg Hospital. These are her thoughts:

“Having been through a cancer journey and the extreme highs and lows that come with it has prepared me for dealing with other potential health scares as I am less fearful of the unknown. Having been close to death with severe neutropenia sepsis during my cancer treatment has also allowed me to accept that death is a part of life. And that the timing of death is different for everyone. I am a lot less afraid of dying having been through and survived cancer as a teenager.

When I am stressed or concerned about cancer or life in general I try to walk, do a hike or exercise. I also speak to family or friends. And I use my travel time to and from work to separate my work thoughts and fears from home life. I am still working at the hospital during the South African lockdown for Covid-19 so I am finding it helpful to be able to leave my house and do my normal work at the hospital.  There are certain freedoms that I miss- like being able to gym or eat out but I am cooking more and trying out new recipes and this has been very fulfilling and enjoyable. I have also had more time to organise my home and feel that I have strengthened some family and friend relationships because we are simply talking to each other more than normal.”

Karin also had some thoughts on what others could do in lockdown. She felt it could be useful for some people to simply use the time to reflect. And for others it could be a time to organise personal space or reconnect with old friends. Exercise workouts online or trying new recipes were other practical suggestions. And maybe just simply using the time to rest and recharge.

I love these thoughts from Karin and am so grateful to her for giving me a window into her life, a glimpse into her tool box and lots of positive ideas to ponder.

osteosarcoma cancer survivor Karin



Chad was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was 16. He had to endure the same aggressive chemotherapy as Karin and had to have many surgeries to salvage his femur and knee joint. These surgeries are miraculous in many ways in that they avoid amputation but they come with their own share of difficulties. It is a long road and muscles and nerves close to the tumour are also removed. This means that all the normal biomechanics are affected and ongoing rehabilitation will be needed and further surgeries are highly likely.

But Chad was also a warrior and came through his battle courageously. He is now a junior designer at a Cape Town ad agency and very kindly shared his thoughts with me as well.

“I feel that my cancer journey did prepare me for handling something like Covid-19.  It taught me what it is like to struggle or be restricted. I had taken mobility and a certain type of freedom for granted. During my cancer treatment I felt restricted and confined. I would go from my house to a doctor’s appointment or a physiotherapy session and then straight back home again. And I spent a lot of time in my room. But this taught me to train my mind. I became reliant on my imagination and determination to get back on my feet.

 I manage stress or fear with a good long bath. I find submerging myself very calming. I also try to write when I feel stressed.

I am working from home in lockdown and staying with my girlfriend. We have a rough schedule and we spend time meditating and doing online exercise classes. And we are also focusing on healthy living. We enjoy cooking and making some of our own healthy products. I also do creative things like digital design and sketching. I think the lockdown has been good in that we have been very intentive with our time together.”

I wondered if Chad had some thoughts or tips for others on a cancer journey or in uncertain times like the Covid-19 situation. I love his words:

“ Fear is a free flowing energy- a little bit like love – so we can be afraid or uncertain when it presents itself but it can also just as easily be taken away. Life is uncertain, change is inevitable and we should embrace it. Do anything you can to keep your mind strong”

osteosarcomma survivor chad


I am so excited that I asked Chad for his thoughts and I so appreciate his honesty and insightfulness. I for one was so inspired and moved by my journey with Chad and Karin all those years ago. And what a blessing and privilege to have them share some of their beautiful adult selves with me. This has truly been a joy stoking journey for me.

Acceptance, letting go and resilience

And I think that it most certainly confirms for me that the work done on a difficult journey is work with a purpose. One of the things I see in these thoughts and insights from Karin and Chad is acceptance. An acceptance of the uncertainty that life brings and an acceptance that death is part of life. In my interactions with people in my day to day life and in my work, I see this acceptance as a huge strength and wonderful starting point to forward motion. Whether it be an acute condition or a chronic one. A life threatening one or simply a life event. Cancer or Covid-19.

Acceptance can be the start of the journey towards psychological flexibility and this is where the really good stuff starts. Certainly easier said than done but I think even dipping our toes into that acceptance process is the start to building our coping strategies. I remember very clearly in my own cancer journey the day I tried dipping my toes in. I was in my first consult with my oncologist and I remember boldly stating that I realised she could not offer me any guarantees. And so we proceeded to have a very frank conversation. I can truly say that was one of the MOST terrifying days of my life. But what I do know is that I got up the next day and I took a small, hesitant step forwards. I had started to face my reality and this helped me as I stumbled along the bumpy road towards acceptance.

And perhaps when we work on acceptance we can start to claw back some power over our lives by focusing on the things that we can control and letting the other things go. A simplifying process where we measure life according to OUR value systems and incorporate those into our goals.

And all the time moulding and reshaping, perhaps even expanding all of this into a glorious and unique structure – a beautiful thing that Chad and Karin have in bundles – RESILIENCE.

I hope this story about these bold and brave humans gives us all a little perspective and encouragement in these uncertain times. I know it did for me. Stay safe.

Share the joy -spread the stoke


stoking joy


Angels in masks -the mastectomy chapter in my breast cancer journey-The Joy Stoke



Angels in disguise Tracy Chapman

Angels in masks

Since I was a little girl I would tell my mom that I saw angels. These were not apparitions. These were real people with whom we interacted in our daily lives, and I am not exactly sure what I saw. Perhaps I would see something in the nuances of facial expression or in their nature or behaviour.  Or perhaps even something deeper in these people that I felt intuitively. Little did I know that this was only the beginning. That I would one day be blessed to meet my very own angels as I journeyed through my adult life. The angels in this story wore masks and were part of my journey through breast cancer and a double mastectomy.

But why tell this angel story now?

My angel story came to mind as I now see everyday the stories of the amazing medical staff around the world working tirelessly to help people affected by  the Covid-19 virus. Real angels in masks and scrubs. Real heroes. And heroes like backabuddy doing the fundraising for them.  Angels all around us – thank you for all you are doing.


My own angel story begins with me in a Cape Town hospital awaiting my double mastectomy. I had been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of malignant breast cancer when I was 34 weeks pregnant with my second child. Some of the details of these stories are for another day and another chapter but fast forward 6 months and my baby was a gorgeous, healthy boy and we named him Koa. This Hawaiian name means strong and courageous and believe me he gave his mom the inspiration to be just that. His beautiful 4 year old sister Ka’lea (Hawaiian meaning Joy) was the kindest helper and a true source of joy to us. I had completed 6 months of chemotherapy which had actually gone reasonably well. I felt I was rocking my spiky grey hair look and somehow the double mastectomy was just the next thing on the list. Let me add here that clearly I had only managed those 6 months with a superhuman effort on the part of my husband, mom and dad, incredible friends and a tidal wave of prayer support and well wishes.  I promise to write future posts with the stories of the people who fanned the flames when I could not.

baby and toddler before my mastectomy

Fight, perspective and growth

On an aside you may be wondering why I was not more concerned about this big thing called a double mastectomy. I don’t expect everyone’s story to  be the same, but these are my reasons why I was able to make this my next necessary step:

1.) Fight for survival – I had watched my husband go through the life-changing loss of his mom to breast cancer. In my head I needed to feel that I had done everything I could to fight this thing. This was just a radical thing that I could do to make me feel I was fighting even though it did not necessarily mean I would win.

2.) Chemotherapy – 6 months of chemotherapy gave me the time to process the future loss of my breasts and it really paled in comparison to what many other cancer sufferers were going through. Some of my brave chemo room buddies had it so much harder and many did not have choices like surgery to improve their prognosis.

3.) Belief in the bigger me, the new me – I was blessed to know that my husband, family and friends did not just  love me for my body parts.  They loved me for the faith, fire and joy within me. And this gave me the courage to face the concept of a new me – a me who was bigger than a sum of body parts. A me who, if I watched closely might even grow to be MORE than I was before this journey.

A love of hospitals

Back to surgery day….

I remember that day so clearly. Friday 27 March 2015. I  painted my toenails a funky orange and packed my hospital bags ( actually over packed if you ask anyone that knows me) . I had a moment with my husband Heath and the children before we left for the hospital and a few nervous tears were shed but overall we were focused and ready for the next step (again here insert massive credit to my mom and dad, the superhuman grandparents). At the hospital I unpacked. Heath popped out for lunch with a  good friend. The surgeons came around and did drawings on me with a marker to map the outline of my breasts for the planning of the mastectomy and reconstruction process. We laughed and I felt such confidence in them and such gratitude for their bright and dedicated spirits. And I felt calm and ready. In retrospect, I realise that I actually thrive on the hospital environment. I worked in hospitals as a physiotherapist for 13 years and I just love the buzz of the teamwork and camaraderie.

However as the afternoon drew on I felt a little niggle of apprehension which grew as the early afternoon became late afternoon. I kept worrying that the surgery would be cancelled or that the surgeons would be too tired by the time it was my turn. I could feel that Heath was having the same thoughts. Eventually at 5:30 pm the porters arrived to pick me up. And at that moment, the calm I had felt all day just disappeared. I felt cold, sweaty and was consumed by a fear that I would die in surgery. My goodbye to Heath was too brief with a brave attempt at holding back tears from both of us. But those tears broke through the dam wall with a steady gush as I made my journey on that hospital bed through the sterile hospital corridors. Up and up we went in the lift and my angst grew.

A masked angel in blue

The doors opened and we pushed though into the theatre waiting area. My tears had stopped but my palms were damp. My heart thumped and I was cold, and then hot, and then cold all over again. I was scared. I have never been bothered by hospital garb before, but suddenly I was surrounded by gowned and masked figures and I just longed for a beaming smile from someone, anyone, under those bright harsh lights. And then it happened. Out of that big cold room came a beautiful figure in blue . Her dark hair was tucked  into a theatre cap and a surgical mask covered her nose and mouth. “Hello Mrs Keyser. We will take care of you now.” Already her warm, soothing tones felt like someone had physically squeezed my hand and a tiny, warm pulse spread from my hand and up into my arm. I looked up at her to say thank you and my heart felt like it beat out of my chest with a burst of bright, fiery sparks. I was flooded with a feeling of being held and loved so very tightly. It was her name badge that had caught my eye and caused this reaction. In fact it was just a simple name sticker – she must have forgotten her badge that morning.  But it was EVERYTHING and the ONLY thing that I needed. Proudly printed on that sticker in black ink was one word, one beautiful word, one incredible word – “Angel”.

Angels by my side

And so from that moment on everything went perfectly. I waited calmly for my surgeons.I looked around and really felt the warm, angelic smiles beneath the masks. (Let me add here that I was also seeing everything through a beautiful fuzzy haze as my contact lenses were tucked away in my bedside table in the ward room). And in that final moment before I went into the theatre the 3 surgeons gathered around my bed in jovial spirits . The plastic surgeon gave my feet a quick encouraging squeeze, showing again the warm beating heart beneath his professional exterior. And they didn’t look tired – not at all. They looked bold and strong, fired up and ready to go into battle with me – the next step on my journey– with angels by my side.



Share the Joy – Spread the Stoke

And as I wrote this post I realise how many fellow South Africans don’t have the means to access the kind of healthcare that I was privileged to receive. I want to give a shout out to Project Flamingo for the amazing work they do for breast cancer in state hospitals in South Africa. Angels everywhere…