Updated 11 September 2013

Ex-Springbok conquers lymphoma cancer

Most people remember Chris Rossouw as one of South Africa's rugby heroes, a member of the legendary Springbok Rugby team of 1995. Yet few know that he survived lymphoma cancer.

Chris Rossouw describes himself as a positive person, who’s had a run of good luck. Most South Africans associate him as one of South Africa’s rugby heroes, a member of the legendary Springbok Rugby team of 1995. Yet he is quick to acknowledge that it is likely a combination of positivity, luck, early detection and excellent medical professionals that got him through the ordeal of being diagnosed with Stage 3 Lymphoma.

It’s hard to believe that a man with such vitality in his voice was once excruciatingly ill and today, Chris lends his voice to the Lymphoma Awareness Campaign, spreading his positive energy with a message of hope.

Being a sportsman, Chris was always the picture of optimum health. He was super fit, never drank or smoked and so never dreamed he would ever fall ill. When Chris began to suffer intense back pain he brushed it off as all the years of playing professional rugby taking its toll. Furthermore, his ailment began around the same time he and his family were oversees, seeking a bone marrow transplant for his youngest son, so his priority at that point in time was his son’s health and wellbeing, not his own.

Lingering pain

Yet, back in South Africa, the lingering back pain persisted, a pain that was completely debilitating. This forced Chris to visit an urologist, thinking he may have a kidney stone. But the doctor intimated that this was something more serious and suggested a scan. No time was wasted in offering a diagnosis: Lymphoma.

Chris had a lump as large as a mango located near his stomach and putting pressure on his kidneys. The scan and an operation enabled doctors to learn that the disease was beginning to spread, but had thankfully not reached any major organs. Chris recalls that period candidly: "The fear is in not knowing. Not knowing if you’re dying or if you’ll live, not knowing if you’re lucky because you have a diagnosis and can start treatment or unlucky for the same reasons."

Chemotherapy started almost immediately and by the third treatment, the tumour had shrunk.  After six weeks of chemo, radiation and PET scans that examine all the lymph areas of the body, Chris was a given a miraculous all-clear.  Fully cognizant that he’d been given a second chance, Chris’s optimism remained intact and he decided that his life had an even deeper meaning and could make a difference to others.

Early detection led to life-saving treatment

He is fervently committed to speaking out about cancer and how to deal with the disease’s impact. "Lymphoma is treatable and beatable and my advice to anyone going through this is to be assured that there is a wealth of information about this form of cancer, which responds so well to treatment."

Three generations: Chris Rossouw with his son, Chris Rossouw Jnr, and father, Chris Rossouw Snr.

Chris also wishes to encourage people to rather face their health concerns by going and getting the necessary checks and tests, after all, early detection of his lymphoma led to life-saving treatment and recovery.

He also believes that having trust in your medical team is essential and lauds the professionalism of his surgeon and the medical establishment in general. "When someone goes through such a crisis, people are very giving, and everyone is full of advice, wanting to help. But don’t confuse yourself, in the end, you must trust your doctor and know that you are in good hands and see your treatment through."

Thus Chris credits excellent medical care, the support of family and a religious outlook as bases to his healing.  He is proof that even the strongest bodies can fall victim to lymphoma, but that an optimistic spirit is what will prevail and that fear, while a normal part of dealing with an illness like cancer, can be transmuted into valiant courage.

Written by Matrix Advertising and Communications

Visit the "I am the voice of Lymphoma" Facebook page and help raise lymphoma awareness.


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