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Eric Proudfoot

Melanoma Cancer

Warrior

This is my story

GRIT

 

It never feels normal for me to participate in introductions, let alone describing my journey over the past 20 months or so without pining for someone to feel sorry for me. To be honest, I’ve been known to feel sorry for myself at times. That said, I would much rather share stories about my most recent trip up Mount Everest, finishing the Dakar Rally on my beloved KTM or my surf trip to Waimea Bay in Hawaii – but that would be bragging and all a bunch of ‘pork pies’.

 

Nah, let’s do neither…

 

You see, I’m that guy who had his head in the sand (ostrich move) with his naked bum shining brightly back at the sun. My ego would like to believe that that dark spot on the Sun was created by me. But what’s that got to do with cancer?

 

Well, my relationship with cancer started some 20 months back (or so I thought). A long story but here’s how….

 

I have 2 very sporty kids Jordie [19] who is partying up a storm at Stellies and Tannah [17] who is grinding her way through Grade 11 at St Marys trying to qualify for a sports and academic scholarship in the USA. Sporty because we are always at the Doctor, Physio, Chiro or Emergency room – for both of them and not me. Late October 2019 was just such an occasion when I took Tan to our family Doc (big mate of mine) for treatment on yet another sports injury. He noticed a big black mole on my forearm and asked to have a look. ‘It’s nothing Doc, just a blood blister that won’t heal’. His eyes rounded and face twitched but he said nothing.

 

My Doc mate hurt me that Friday arvie as he sliced a piece off and sent it away.

 

Early the next morning (5am) I was woken by a call from my surgeon ‘to be’ with the scary news that the melanoma was positive and in a very aggressive state. I could hear him sharpening his scalpel as he asked if I had anything to eat or drink. ‘Flip Doc, its only 5am. What do you think?’ He summoned me to Sandton Clinic where he would chisel out half my flippen arm and excavate a whole bunch of lymph nodes from my armpit. And all this before the 3pm Saturday kick-off between Liverpool and Man U.

 

Now that dark spot on the Sun was not just my ego but rather a projection spot on my arm. Why did I not see this? What am I missing? Is this ostrich move that I do so well resulting in me missing other obvious signs in my life? Why me? I’m young, love sport and not scared of life so this can’t be happening!!!!! How stupid can I be? [MENTAL HEALTH]

 

Roll the clock a few months on to January 2020…..Yes, the dreaded year of 2020.

 

What was to follow over the next 12 to 15 months has given me a lot of hops and barley ingredients for my once beloved beer.

  • Reading some of your cancer champion stories just illustrates the struggle, anxiety, stress and pain one feels when faced with starting treatment to fight these little ‘gogas’ inside of us. My struggle script was 18 sessions (every 21 days) of Keytruda over the next 12 month which by the way, was trivial compared to the struggles some of my new mates I met at Sandton Oncology Centre were experiencing. No, my struggle was inflicted by a massive Corporation who will remain nameless suffice to say that I recently Discovered that their huge glass building in Sandton is almost completely unoccupied. Imagine going to the casino and putting a winning bet on Black only to be told by the croupier that they were now only going to pay out a much lesser % of the winnings and keep the rest for themselves!!!!!! I had to sell my car and other assets to fund the portion of the treatment that they didn’t cover even though I had been paying a monthly premium for their top medical plan for my entire family for over 20 years. Wow. [MONEY]

  • Roll on a further 3 months to March 2020 and COVID19. Well, that put paid to my business [MONEY] as I run my own company which was completely wiped out. Then my marriage of 25 years [LOVE] sadly collapsed under the strain and finally due to Cyril’s policies of ‘house arrest’ I found myself trapped and unable to get out and vent and scream at that f&^%^*@ sun spot. [FREEDOM]

 

2020 was dark but out of those dark times, some amazing shining lights have started to emerge. My journey is by no means won but let’s just say that if I was an athlete, I would be on the way to Tokyo. Exciting times ahead.

 

I would like to share my thoughts so jump on for the ride if you like;

 

For Jordie (my son), 2020 was even more crazy. He had to deal with the uncertainty of his dad’s health to which I tried to hide my anxiety and show a strong persona. But he is not stupid. He experienced a broken home and saw how it affected my heart. He had to suck in his belt with the obvious budget constraints imposed on by his dad’s medical bills and all this whilst writing his matric. I mean, matric is hard enough right - let alone all of this AND due to Covid19 restrictions missing out on his ‘rite of passage’, wearing his fancy blazer to honour his leadership, sporting and academic achievements and all the other privileges that go along with being a matric in a boarding school. Even with all that going on, I remember him telling me that all I needed to do was to focus on my health and he would focus on his exams. Well he smashed them. No, he more than smashed them and so he has my full permission to go really BIG at Stellies on condition that he passes of course…

 

And then Tan. Hanging around and ‘nursing’ me whilst her boet was at boarding school in a somewhat ‘empty & cold’ home that was until recently really thriving, must have been hell for her. Yet she soldiered on. Tan also achieved all of the ridiculous goals she set for herself. A white sports blazer at St Mary's for representing South Africa in Germany and Norway and an academic report that will go a long way in getting her into a US University medical school program. In all my years of working with Senior Executives and Managers and teaching Leadership, I have never come across anyone with as much Empathy as Tannah. I might be a bit biased I know but I’m standing by that claim.

 

But why the brag?

 

You see, I have never wanted for anything in my life. A very loving childhood, privileged upbringing by unbelievable parents and siblings, achievements in sport and school, a cruise through varsity and various jobs in both corporate and my own business that afforded me a good lifestyle.

 

That came crashing down all at once. I’ve never had to roll up my sleeves for anything and now to have adversity forced down my throat in gallons is scary. A perfect storm all in 1 year. [MONEY, LOVE, HEALTH, FREEDOM, MENTAL HEALTH].

 

Reflecting on those dark questions I posed earlier and seeing them play out right in front of me by my kids (the very people that I had bestowed some of my grief), has been mind-blowing to say the least. To see the two of them roll up their sleeves, face everything that was thrown at them head-on and simply get on with achieving their goals is all inspiring.

 

That is true GRIT.

 

That’s my lesson to learn as taught to me by my kids. It’s now time for me to show some GRIT.

 

My GRIT journey has just started and I intend to make my kids proud. In addition, I hope to take this further and meet all you Cancer Champions soon and invite you to jump on my back at any time to experience a bit of GRIT during your tough times.

 

 Tough times….

Finally, my next milestone will be in August 2021 when I have my third PET scan. I’m certain all will be good to go but in the meantime, I am getting fit again, working as hard as possible and playing lots of golf.

 

Unfortunately, as in every great story there is a tragic ending. Remember that beloved beer I mentioned earlier, Well, it’s been 9 months since I said goodbye.

 

I do miss it’s 6pack…

 

With love

Eric

Ringing the bell after my last treatment recently….

Back on my feet teaching….

Doing what I love most….

Trying to get fit again….

 Feeding my soul with more golf….

 

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