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South African Hip Hop artist, Oxijin aka Rumacques Gelderbloem, tells us how his colon cancer diagnosis challenged his confidence as a 29-year-old male.
Oxijin aka Rumacques Gelderbloem (35) lives in Worcester, Western Cape.
As a healthy 29-year-old male that enjoyed playing rugby for a community team, Rumacques’ cancer diagnosis came as a surprise. He says, “It completely challenged my attitude towards life, at first I thought it was negative, but the journey had its own lessons.” However, it was a long progression to see the diagnosis in the upbeat manner he does now.
In 2015, Rumacques experienced severe stomach cramps and had difficulty eating. He explains that he had no other choice but to go to hospital. After a colonoscopy, the diagnosis came back confirming colon cancer. The tumour was located just centimetres from his rectum and he was told that surgery was the only way to remove the tumour.
The doctor also informed him that he may need a stoma and explained how this may affect his life. “I didn't take this news well. It challenged my confidence as a 29-year-old male. If a stoma was the result of surgery, then psychological help would be a necessity. I saw everything wrong with the possibility of having to adapt,” Rumacques explains.
The surgery was a success and thankfully a stoma wasn’t required. However, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to 17 lymph nodes. Thus, the Hip Hop artist then underwent a year's treatment of chemotherapy at a public hospital. The love, care and support of the oncology nurses gave him that extra push to see this battle through. "They are angels I will never forget," he says.
When asked if he was relieved when he heard he didn’t need a stoma, Rumacques responds, “There was no primary or secondary relief that I could've felt because I still had surgery. It still took away sport, I can only play touch rugby now and can't run without any worries of injury on an open field. I weighed 130kg and in a few months’ I weighed 77kg. It wasn’t only a loss of fat, there was also a loss of pride. The diagnosis took my pride. For a person without any references of being ill, none of this was a relief when I think about it.”
Managing the side effects of chemotherapy
With chemotherapy came various side effects, such as mouth sores and nausea. Rumacques decided to use cannabis to assist with this. He adds, “I didn’t have any counselling regarding my diagnosis, so I experienced mental distress. This is another reason why I opted to use cannabis, both the oil form and smoking it. I found the THC eased mental distress and allowed me to focus and deepened my reason for living while the CBD calmed me physically. I also cooked with it and added it to my tea.”
Changes of attitude and life
When the musician was diagnosed and had surgery, he was put on disability for two years to focus on his recovery. After surgery, his father, Nolan, would wake him up with a protein shake every morning. This support from his father gave him extra motivation to get up and start walking again.
Rumacques made the decision to eat less starch as well as avoid liquids that contain sugar and gas. Once he had fully recovered, he tried to exercise as much as he could. He walks often, and plays touch rugby and jogs when he is up for it.
It was during his recovery that he learnt humility. “It was hard not being able to wash myself in the beginning but through the process, humility was cemented because I had to depend on my immediate family for assistance. I realised that ‘your people’ are important. People are my new-found currency.”
After going through this journey of colon cancer, Rumacques says, “What matters is the opportunity to experience life in all its forms. The beauty of changing seasons. The relief of forgiving and forgetting wrongs. Walking and fine-tuning my hearing to the sound of my breathing. I appreciate life in others and myself more than before. Cancer revealed my capacity to light up every occasion with passion and purpose. I live intentionally and there’s no mental space for indecisiveness anymore.”
Living his best life
In 2017, he was invited by Cancervive to share his cancer journey and perform at their educational road shows on the West Coast and again in 2019. "I thank Cancervive for allowing me to share my story and give me another platform to educate people about cancer," he says.
Six years after his diagnosis, Rumacques is living his life to the fullest. He continues to fulfil his passion by making music in his mother tongue, Afrikaans, in the Hip Hop industry under his alias name, Oxijin. He is also a freelance presenter on Pasella (SABC 2) and Klop! (kykNET) and recently went to Namibia to advocate an anti-suicide campaign. All in all, Rumacques is doing his part in making the world a better and kinder place.
Editor: Laurelle Williams
Contributor: Laurelle is the Editor at Word for Word Media and graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She have a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org
First published by oncologybuddies.com