Cancer Story of Hope – Con Malherbe
What type of cancer do / did you have?
Where are you currently in terms of your cancer treatment plan?
In recovery after my stem cell transplant in May 2023.
How long have you been living with that cancer?
Almost 3 years.
Tell us a bit more about your cancer treatment plan and how living with cancer affects or affected you in general in your day-to-day living?
Fortunately, thanks to my early detection in November 2020, my journey has been different to most cancer patients as I was asymptomatic up until November last year, when things got real and I started my chemo treatment. This led up to my stem cell transplant in May 2023. The journey up until then was still filled with loads of uncertainty as I tried to unpack what this disease called myeloma was all about.
The 2 month wait between blood tests always left me hoping that somehow there was a mistake and that the smouldering myeloma would die out and go away. This was not going to be and we watched as the levels rose. The decision was made by my medical team to do a stem cell transplant.
I found one of the best ways of dealing with things was to connect with fellow multiple myeloma survivors like world surf ski champion, Oscar Chalupsky who was diagnosed much later than me and despite his uphill battles, was and is, still extremely positive. This led me to adopting the mantra “PDF” which stands for Positivity, Diet and Faith. Faith is a personal choice and has been a vital cog in my journey.
Being inspired by people like Oscar, my loving family, and friends, and having access to a great medical team, gave me every reason to be super positive. Thanks to my wife I quickly adopted her healthy lifestyle habits and soon abandoned all processed foods. I started following her mostly plant based, gluten and dairy free diet. This was a game changer. I soon lost 10kg’s and was living my most healthy life. I was able to win the SA Grand Master Marathon Mountain Bike Champs early last year (2022), as well as win my category in the Sani2c & Berg Bush MTB stage races, also taking 2nd place at the 9 day Joberg2c event during this period.
I really believe these lifestyle changes were responsible for slowing the progression of the disease down, giving me 2 great years of being the fittest I’ve ever been and leading me into the transplant in a really good state of being.
Once treatment started I sensibly toned down on the exercise but did NOT stop. The side effects of the chemo treatment were minimal and my stem cell transplant was relatively seamless as I managed to avoid the dreaded minimum of 3 weeks in the isolation ward and was allowed home twice during this period. The longest I had to be in isolation was 7 consecutive days.
One month post-transplant all my results were great, save for some minor detection of the disease which revealed itself in my bone marrow biopsy. It was back onto the same chemo treatment I was on prior to the transplant, for 3 months.
I’m happy to say that I only have a month to go and hopefully can then declare a resounding victory over cancer.
I’m extremely grateful that I have managed to stay moderately active during this entire transplant period which has really helped my to cope with the situation.
How have you or your loved ones been affected by you living with cancer?
Yes we have definitely been affected. Once you get that diagnosis it has an effect on everyone close to you, especially your spouse. The concerns, uncertainties and worry spill over.
The best way to alleviate this is by being positive and showing gratitude towards your loved ones.
What is your message to our government regarding the prevention, management and treatment of cancer?
Prevention is better than cure, so there should be a massive emphasis on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle!
What is your message to other people living with cancer?
To take your head out of the sand, make lifestyle changes and adopt ‘my PDF mantra’ above, to adopt Positivity, Diet and Faith!