Interviews

Stephen Smit – A cancer survivor

Account Manager (Distribution Company)

You are a cancer survivor and how you dealt with it is why I admire you so much, tell us your story.

If anything, my story should be a cautionary take of always getting a 2nd or 3rd opinion if you have a medical issue that does not go away.

I have pain just below the left side of my ribs for a while and had gone to see the doctor a few times. It was first diagnosed as a sports injury, then Fibromyalgia (all of which I was given medication for). I went for a 2nd opinion which was also misdiagnosed, and by this time it had been close to a year of having pain. It went like this, seeing the doctor, having some medication prescribed, the medication not working and me having to return to the doctor.

By this time I has also started having trouble swallowing food. Finally fed up, I requested the doctor refer me to a specialist, who performed a Gastroscopy (on my birthday) to check why I was having trouble swallowing my food. He found a tumour in my stomach and esophagus, took a biopsy, and we had to come back the following Monday for the result.

The result? stage 4 stomach cancer which had spread into my esophagus, resulting in having trouble swallowing,  and my liver.

I do not think the news hit as hard at first. I think it is maybe because I was trying to be string for my parents who were clearly shook by the news, and having to call my girlfriend and her the news.

Later I went through a spectrum of emotions including anger, frustration and helplessness. I think we all did, but all of these emotions are normal.

I had been receiving chemo therapy treatments and medication for a couple of months when I was admitted to hospital with a blood clot in my leg ( a side affect that can occur from chemo therapy). They were unable to put me on anticoagulants since it could make the tumour in my stomach bleed. So, the decision was made to for a scan and if possible, remove the tumour with surgery.

The result came back and my 24.7cm tumour that had been in my stomach had shrunk to less than 4cm, which was amazing news, the surgery went ahead and the remaining cancer and tissue around my organs was removed.

I spent 6 weeks in ICY after surgery, had 3 more chemo therapy sessions, went for the follow up scan and we were all overjoyed when the result came back cancer free.

stephen 6

What or who carried you through this time, how did you cope?

With load of love and support from friends & family, you hit some really bad lows during the chemo therapy treatment. It makes you feel horrible in a way that is difficult to describe, not to mention some really bad side-effects. It’s an experience I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

Surrounding yourself with people who will help you stay positive and lift your spirits is very important. I realise not everyone might have friends or family to support them through something like this, but you can speak to your doctor, there are support groups that you could join if that is what you need.

With all that said, having something to look forward to, something I still wanted to do/achieve helped me to look ahead instead of focusing on what I was going through. I was, and still am, in a loving committed relationship. Maryke’s love and support meant the world to me, when I received the diagnosis, she was the first person I called. I told her I’m not planning on going anywhere. I still wanted to marry her and this won’t stop me.

Looking back we carried each other through a very difficult time. She was my strength when mine failed and I her when hers failed.

My family and friends were there every step of the way as well, willing to help in anyway they can, and if you know my mom, she is a support system all on her own.

What would your advise be to a cancer patient?

Be calm, and take stock of the situation. Yes, this is incredibly horrible news that no one ever wants to receive, but it is here and ignoring it wont make it go away. Keeping a positive outlook and attitude is very important, I would even say a crucial part of beating this.

Lean on your support structure, you will need the people in your life. If you not have a support structure your Oncologist should be able to put you in touch with a support group.  The doctors will be somber and dour (or mine was at least), do not take their attitude as in indication of your chances.

According to my doctors I should not even be here. Be strong and fight, yes this is a tough and intimidating foe, but not an unbeatable one. Above all, after every draining chemo therapy session and horrible days that follow, DO NOT GIVE UP.

Fall down seven time, get up eight.

Lastly, immediately look into medication called Gravi-C. It has helped myself and other cancer patients beat this disease and the results speak for themselves.

What is the most annoying thing people said to you during this time?

Nothing really specific stands out. I actually tried to not talk about it as much since I did not want to be known as “the cancer guy”. The inevitable having to recount the entire story to someone did get very tedious, but luckily others were happy to oblige and tell the tale when I did not feel up to it.

You favourite quote or words of inspiration.

If you look for the light, you can often finds it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see.

A note from me

Stephen and I met in primary school in Grade 6. We have come a long way and I carry him and his family very close to my heart. We are not only friends, we are family.

I remember the day as it was yesterday when I found out he was diagnosed with cancer. I cried with his mom and we told each other this is not the end.

The strength of this man and his family is phenomenal.

If you have any questions, please leave them below. I will forward it to him if you want to know something.

 

 

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