My story is a constant struggle to win, despite the odds. I grew up in poverty in rural KZN, near Newcastle. Initially, I could only attend school for the first six months of the year as I was required to assist on the farm where my parents worked for the remainder of the year. In an effort to assist with my education, my parents moved and built a house in an area nearer the school so I could attend school regularly. Life was still hard, waking up at 4am for the 9km walk to the local school. Like most of my generation, I left school before I had matriculated to look for work.
Through the influences of Johan Rupert and sports stars such as Morne Du Plessis, Johnny Halberstadt and Bob De La Motte, I became a successful marathon runner. In 1986, I won the Two Oceans marathon. However, my biggest race however was yet to begin. In 2012, I began experiencing urinary and bowel problems. My condition worsened, and one day, when I collapsed on the way to work, I realised something was seriously wrong.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. It was just before Christmas. Although the doctor had already picked up there was a prostate problem during the digital rectal examination, I’d have to wait until after Christmas for the PSA results. But cancer cells don’t take holidays and my body had had enough. On Christmas day my prostate cancer caused a blockage and I couldn’t urinate. I thought drinking lots of water would help clear the blockage, but it made things worse as it caused my bladder to enlarge. Unable to urinate I was taken to hospital and catheterised. The PSA tests confirmed a strong suspicion for prostate cancer and I was put on a waiting list for a biopsy. The results of the biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Treatment started immediately.
My biggest challenge was to accept I had prostate cancer. When I did accept it, I started to realise more needs be done to create awareness about the disease. Today, I use every platform available to me to talk about my experience and to encourage men to be more responsible about their health.
I’m a founding member of the Soweto marathon and I hope this event can be used to educate men within the community about prostate cancer. I believe men need to support each other and my own life bears testimony to this. I believe my life has been spared for a reason and my purpose now is to help men be open about prostate cancer. I’m very motivated to make a difference in the lives of South African men. My victory now will be to save lives by motivating men to go for screening and to give support to those diagnosed with cancer.