Farewell to East family’s Dawn

Dawn East died after a long battle with cancer.

Dawn East, 45, died at St Luke’s Hospice on Wednesday September 21 after a long battle with cancer.

Dawn is the eldest daughter of Ward 71 councillor Penny East and her husband, Tony. She is survived by her 19-year-old son, Luke, and 17-year-old daughter, Emily.

“She has had a very long battle,” Ms East said. “She was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago.”

Ms East said Dawn had a double mastectomy, radiation therapy, chemo “and all the rest of it”. At the time, she recovered completely and was given a clean bill of health, but then two years ago the cancer recurred. It started with pain in her back, Ms East said. 

“The cancer was in her back, hips, spine and brain,” Mr East said. “She went back onto all the treatments. And for a while it seemed to be helping.”

Dawn in the meanwhile carried on with her life fully and even completed her BComm degree. “She continued to work, she continued to look after her kids,” Mr East said.

Ms East said: “She was incredibly brave about the whole thing. Then, a few months ago, it was very clear that things had changed.”

The doctors changed her treatments, but it was to no avail. Six weeks ago, Ms East said, Dawn’s oncologist informed the family that the treatments were no longer effective.

“He said ongoing treatment was not going to be of any benefit to her,” she said. “Things progressed very rapidly after that.”

Three weeks later, Dawn became too ill to care for herself, so she moved in with her sister who took care of her. A week before she died, she became so ill that professional help was necessary, and she was taken to St Luke’s Hospice. She died peacefully shortly after.

“Her mother passed on a few years ago,” Mr East said, referring to his first wife. “Granny is very upset that she lost a daughter and a granddaughter.” 

Ms East said: “We have been completely overwhelmed with kindness and generosity. We’ve had more than 450 messages of love and support. We appreciate each and every one and each one brings comfort.”

There was no funeral service for Dawn because she donated her remains to the medical school at UCT, “in the spirit of her mother”, Ms East said.

The family held a memorial service on Friday September 23 at Little Streams in Constantia.

The Easts described Dawn as “very enthusiastic about everything”. 

“She worked hard, she played hard. She was a strong, lovely vibrant woman,” Ms East said.

Dawn played several sports and was an avid runner. 

Mr East said:“Halfway through her treatment, she said, ‘I’m going to start running again,’ but she never got there,” 

Ms East said: “She is going to leave a huge hole in this family. She was funny and fun-loving, with a naughty, naughty sense of humour.”