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Hailing from the fairest Cape, Mbombela’s Candice Williams says after eight years in this beautiful province, the Lowveld feels like home.

As a child, Candice always wanted to be a nurse, feeling that her calling was to help people. Following in her father’s footsteps (he’s a retired accountant), Candice studied financial accounting, but hated every minute of it. She then completed a beauty diploma and fell in love with skincare.

Married to the Pumas full back Devon Williams, Candice laughs as she recalls how he ‘stalked’ her on Facebook, although she says he would probably say it was the other way around. “The first time we actually met was a disaster,” Candice laughs. “We ended up inviting our friends and it became one big party. At that stage, Devon didn’t want to settle down, but I did. We decided to just be friends and he became my bestie … But I think he knew I wouldn’t wait long for a man to grow up, and after a few weeks we started dating. A few months later he proposed.”

Being married to a rugby player has its pros and cons, one of the biggest negatives is Devon being away every second weekend when it’s rugby season. Life is a little more flexible right now and Candice and Che-kai, the couple’s little boy, travel with him. In-season is a busy time for Devon, and with Candice recently being crowned Mrs Mpumalanga, making the effort to spend quality family time together is important.

The apple of his mum’s eye, Che-kai’s very existence is the product of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears. As a teen, Candice struggled with an eratic and heavy menstrual cycle. “The doctor put me onto a contraceptive to regulate my period, which worked wonders. Everything stabilised and I was perfectly fine,” she explains. “Then, after we got married, I decided to stop the contraceptive in the hopes of falling pregnant. I went straight back to square one, irregular and uncomfortable. I went to a local gynae for a check-up, and she diagnosed me with PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome.”

Despite this, the doctor told Candice she had nothing to worry about, that she would soon fall pregnant. After three months of nothing happening, whe went back to her and was put on a cycle of ovulation tablets. “Within the first month of being on medication, I skipped my period. I went back to her and she said I might be pregnant; I need to come back in four weeks’ time. I was so excited! I phoned my husband while driving home and told him we were expecting. We were over the moon. But then, after only two weeks, I started to bleed heavily. The gynae said I must come in immediately. We did a few tests at the hospital, and it turned out I had never been pregnant at all.”

Starting from scratch, the couple decided to change doctors. Candice’s first scan with the new gynae wasn’t positive at all. It showed a tumour growing inside the womb lining, what the previous doctor had mistakenly taken for an embryo on the scan. “I was in total shock. I had the operation to remove the cyst and the tumour, which was quite an ordeal … But I stayed positive and prayed a lot. After the op, the specialist told me that both my fallopian tubes were filled with fluid and completely blocked, so there was no way for the sperm and egg to meet each other. My only option was IVF. I didn’t even know what it was.”

At that time, Mbombela didn’t have an infertility clinic, but they found an excellent specialist in Pretoria. A number of check-ups are carried out in the first appointment to verify that the couple are a good match for the procedure. They also explain the cost. The first treatment is in the region of R80 000. The Williamses’ specialist was working in conjunction with local gynae Pieter Steyn, who was seeing Candice on a weekly basis after her first IVF injection, to make sure follicles were growing in her ovaries.

When the couple went for their last scan, Pieter said he was ready to give them the trigger shot to harvest the eggs. “They got 22 eggs from me, and from them seven healthy embryos. “After two months, we did our first transfer with two embryos. It didn’t work, and I miscarried both. We did another transfer, but still got the same result. I miscarried again. Now we were left with only three embryos.”

She went back to Pieter, and they decided to remove both her fallopian tubes in the hope it might stop the miscarriages. Candice had the surgery, and decided to give her body a rest before doing another transfer with the remaining three embryos. The couple agreed they needed a break, and went on holiday to Zanzibar. “I did a pregnancy test soon after we got there, but it was negative, and all I remember thinking is, why me?”

The day they left Zanzibar Candice was very sick. Thinking she had contracted malaria on the trip, they went straight to Mediclinic. “The first thing they did was a blood test. I was pregnant – best news ever! After four weeks, I went back to the gynae for a check-up, only to find out that all three of the embryos had taken – I was pregnant with triplets!”

But once again, there was bad news – although, luckily there was also a positive side. When Candice went for her nine-week check-up, she found out that two of the three heartbeats had stopped – there was only one left. That one went to full term, and in 2020, little Che-kai was born, a happy, healthy, bouncing baby boy. “We couldn’t have been happier,” laughs Candice. “This experience has taught me so much, especially patience. People should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about infertility. We need to break that stigma. God’s timing is always the best.”

There is still so much Candice wants to achieve. Both she and Devon love community work and try to make time for it whenever possible. She is passionate about the beauty industry. Her dream is to open a beauty school to certify underprivileged women in the local community, giving them a sense of purpose through being able to generate their own income, changing their lives ‘one lipstick at a time’. The couple also intend trying for baby number two in the near future.

Cover: Candice Williams.
Make-up: Zuandri Jonker – Edge Beauty.
Hair: Judy Shabangu – @Juds.
Dresses: Jessica Mndebele – JessyM.
Photographer: Tanya Erasmus – Something Timeless Photography.
Venue: Urban House, Mbombela.

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