Inspiring Runner: Waheed Vadi
Learn how a 24 year old from Mayfair, Johannesburg studying a Bachelor of Accounting Science at WITS University was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma and overcame this struggle to continue feeding his addiction for running.
I started running in 2011 and I’ve been addicted ever since.
Almost 2 years ago, just a few months after I had completed the 2014 Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma. In December 2012 I visited my GP as I had detected an unusual, worrying lump in my groin. He excised it under local anaesthetic in his rooms, and even though my family requested histology of the lump the doctor said this was not necessary – he believed the lump to be a benign lipoma.
However, in March 2014 I noticed that the lump had started to grow back. Upon consultation with Dr Google, I came to the understanding that a lipoma should never come back and that it should DEFINITELY not come back in the same spot. So, I visited a urologist in June 2014 (after my mid-year exams had ended), and had the lump excised under general anaesthetic at the Milpark Hospital. 2 days later, on 25 June 2014, my urologist called to inform me that the histology showed that I had an aggressive, very rare, cancer called leiomyosarcoma.
I was admitted to the Donald Gordon Hospital on 26 June and spent 2 days having tests to ascertain the extent of the cancer. Then, from 30 June to 7 July 2014 I under went several more tests and procedures as an outpatient in preparation for surgery. This was a hugely traumatic time in my life as I was informed by my team of doctors that if the cancer had spread to my organs (lungs, liver, etc) there would be very little they could do for me. Thankfully, the scans showed the cancer to be localised and this meant that we could go ahead with major surgery. My family and I were told that other treatments (like chemotherapy) would prove ineffective in fighting this cancer – which meant that a major excision was our only real option.
So, on July 8, 2014 I had major surgery and reconstruction and I was in hospital for a further 6 days. The nature of the surgery was such that I could not sit for a period of 6 weeks – I could only lie down on my right side, or stand completely upright. This meant that I was housebound for the duration of the recovery as getting into a car proved impossible. The recovery process rendered me completely exhausted – for the most part, I had very little energy and spent most of my time lying down or sleeping. Obviously, as an athlete, this was a very frustrating experience for me – I was unable to do anything for myself and I was losing my muscle tone and fitness rapidly and I was gaining a lot of weight. On the 22 August that year, I was allowed to sit down again. My first real outing after this was to the gym when my mom took me for a walk around the cricket fields at Old Eds Cricket club where I play and coach cricket. This is one of the best memories of my recovery as I felt reinvigorated and alive again – I was outdoors and doing something mildly active for the first time in months!
In early October I under went more tests to assess whether I was clear of cancer. Thankfully, all went well and I had a further procedure on 8 October to reverse the colostomy which was done as part of the initial surgery. I was in hospital for 8 days, and needed a further 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.
By the end of November 2014 I was ready to begin my comeback – but my doctors insisted that this would have to be aided by a biokineticist. Over a period of 3 months, I slowly integrated myself back into the sporting world with the aid of an exercise plan set out by the biokineticist. The comeback, however, proved to be much slower than I anticipated and I only got back to real running midway through this year (2015). My comeback race was in July when I ran 10km at the WITS Kudus Road Race. Even though I wasn’t quite as fast as I used to be, it was just an awesome feeling to be racing again!
Right now, I am happy and healthy (almost 18 months cancer free now) and trying hard to regain my old fitness levels. When I’m on varsity breaks, I am able to train more rigorously and I’m upping my mileage quite well. Having missed the 2015 event, I have entered the 2016 event and can’t wait to be in Cape Town over Easter Weekend!
Cancer is a word not a sentence. It CAN be overcome. Many people don't realise that.