by Nadia Gamieldien

Skin deep

Rob Louw shares his story

Rob Louw chats about the challenges he had in facing skin cancer
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Rob Louw, former South Africa Rugby player speaks out about his battle with cancer and his multiple near death experiences.

You were known as a great rugby player – have you cashed in on your fame?

Well, maybe not in the direct monetary sense. Rugby is an international sport and it is well known so being affiliated with it opens doors for you. When it comes to the working world, those doors could help make things easier. With the business I run now, I find that many people I encounter, either know me as a rugby player or they have heard of me. So in that way, yes. But not in the financial sense as we did not earn as much back then as they do now.

How did you find out you were sick?

It was a few years ago. I had severe stomach problems and was in constant pain. When I went to see my doctor, he said it could be my gall bladder. I was scheduled for an operation and they removed my gall bladder shortly afterwards.

What they found, they described as both shocking and interesting. You see, my cancer (melanoma) is a form of skin cancer and is often spotted on the skins surface. It can start with a mole, which appears to be abnormal. Most people will go to the doctor when they notice the mole and they would then have it removed. But if it’s in the latter stages, it could have spread deep inside your body. When this happens, it becomes a serious matter. This is stage four cancer – that was what I had.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the doctors gave me four months to live. I went for scans and they found several spots, the size of a bean, in my liver, my stomach and in most parts of my body.

Now, what is interesting is that, a few years before I was diagnosed I read something on the internet. I came across an article which spoke about turmeric and what it does. It is very helpful for killing cancer.

I love cooking and started using it in everything I made. Turmeric and green tea became permanent features in my kitchen. What I didn’t know was that these two items which I consumed on a daily basis, were the top ingredients for fighting cancer. I used to throw it down my throat and my family thought I was losing my mind when I’d stand there with a yellow mouth. I did this for two weeks before I was afforded the opportunity to fly to America for treatment.

My treatment was arranged by a very good friend of mine, Johann Rupert. Johann and I attended university together and he had a contact in America.

I flew to Houston Texas and went to Indiana Fields, a research facility which employs 17 000 people. They operated on me, cut out a piece of my small intestine and took cancer fighting cell samples and cells along my tumour. These cancer fighting cells were then multiplied. Should the cancer come back in a life threatening way, these cells would be used to treat it. 

While I was there, it flared up and they cut out a piece of my liver for testing.The treatment went well and I returned home. They said I was in very good shape. I now have these cells on ice in America, that will be made available if I find myself losing the battle against cancer.

If you had to leave the readers with a few words of advice, what would they be?

Always use sunblock. First thing in the morning and again at midday. Cover yourself up and wear a hat if possible. We all know how expensive sunblock can be but if you at least wear a cap, it already makes a difference.Try and cover up as much as you can. Whether you are driving or working near a window, if the sun comes in it will affect you. In the past sunblock was seen as more of a cosmetic thing but now its becoming a pharmaceutical product – they must realise that everyone needs to use sunblock and an affordable product is needed.

I approached Cipla a few years ago on my return from America to discuss the possibility of creating a natural supplement.Something that would incorporate the two elements which I found to be the most successful at fighting cancer – green tea and turmeric.With all the travelling I have done, it became difficult to consume these ingredients in their natural form.

After my diagnosis I am much more informed about cancer – I was constantly on the internet and reading up on google. I also bought books on the topic. So when I approached Cipla, I knew I had to be prepared. I wanted them to come up with a natural supplement that could help people fight cancer. That is how the ‘Rob’s Choice’ product came about.

I also learnt a very interesting fact while searching for information on cancer. It was estimated that Indians had a 30% cancer rate of the total cancer rating within the western world. Scientists could not understand why their risks were so low, until they realised it was turmeric.

They tried it on rats and found that it was able to kill cancer almost immediately. Further scrutiny of the Indian populations diet found that black pepper helps with absorption. This is why black pepper is one of the components of ‘Rob’s Choice’. 

Taking a supplement is so much easier than the way I used to consume it – by packing the items in a backpack and mixing it into a cocktail. The taste was something you had to get used to.

You know, the human body produces cancer cells on a daily basis. If your immune system is too weak, the cancer can become worse, so it is very important to take immune boosters.

Were you involved in raising awareness for cancer before your diagnosis?

I have always felt very strongly about cancer awareness. What I find ironic is that before my diagnosis, I used to take part in walks or cycling for cancer. I am now more than ever determined to create awareness. I am currently planning a cancer concert. I’ve spoken to a few friends and it’s something we’re working on – I have always wanted to do it but I was so caught up in my own fight against cancer. Now that I am starting to become stronger, and having been cleared of cancer for a while now, I can finally do it.

We should all become more aware, we don’t realise that what we put into our bodies can be dangerous in the long run.

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