XOLANI’S BRAVE FIGHT

South Africans have ral­lied around the 702 Break­fast Show pre­sen­ter since he re­vealed his ad­vanced colon can­cer di­ag­no­sis

DRUM - - News - COM­PILED BY SHANAAZ PRINCE

HE’S one of ra­dio’s most pop­u­lar guys, a true gen­tle­man of the air­waves – silky-voiced, ur­bane, amus­ing and smart. So lis­ten­ers to 702 were dis­ap­pointed when Break­fast Show an­chor Xolani Gwala an­nounced he was em­bark­ing on a pe­riod of ra­dio si­lence while he dealt with a se­ri­ous health is­sue.

Fans won­dered what was go­ing on. Then came the dev­as­tat­ing an­nounce­ment: he has can­cer. And it’s bad.

In an emo­tion­ally charged broad­cast on 702, Xolani (42) opened up to col­league Stephen Grootes and dis­cussed the gru­elling road ahead.

“Un­der the cir­cum­stances I’m okay, but ob­vi­ously I’m liv­ing with some­thing in­side and it’s mas­sive,” Xolani says mat­ter-of-factly.

“Af­ter thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tions, they found I have colon can­cer, which is ad­vanced – quite ad­vanced.”

Xolani was hes­i­tant at first to talk about what was go­ing on.

“Cur­rently, I am fac­ing a med­i­cal chal­lenge,” is all he said a few weeks ago when he an­nounced he would be off air for a while. “The med­i­cal team is still ex­am­in­ing the na­ture of this med­i­cal chal­lenge and the process is un­der­way. So when we are all clear about what it is, I’ll come back and let you know . . . But it’sa se­ri­ous med­i­cal chal­lenge.”

He was true to his word. On Grootes’

show – in the com­pany of his wife, for­mer Miss South Africa-turned-in­vest­ment banker Peggy-Sue Khu­malo, his on­col­o­gist, Dr Omondi Ogude, and his close friend, sports pre­sen­ter Robert Marawa – Xolani laid bare the na­ture of the strug­gle he faces.

“It’s go­ing to be a very dif­fi­cult fight and a long fight but [it’s] a fight I’m ready for.”

THE di­ag­no­sis came out of the blue. Su­per-fit Xolani – or XG, as his lis­ten­ers know him – ran the Lon­don Marathon in April this year as well as lo­cal marathons. Apart from a fever, there were no signs that any­thing se­ri­ous was afoot.

He de­cided to go for a thor­ough checkup any­way – not sus­pect­ing the shock that was to come.

“There was ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong and then sud­denly you go to the doc­tor and they do one or two tests and they say, ‘Lis­ten, you have can­cer.’ Not just can­cer, but ad­vanced can­cer,” he says.

“Af­ter this I’ve learnt you’ve got to raise aware­ness. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I live well. I eat well. My par­ents don’t have it as far as I know – so the thing about can­cer is that it can hap­pen to any­one.”

Xolani has al­ready un­der­gone a pro­ce­dure to re­move part of his sig­moid colon [the part clos­est to the rec­tum and anus] and is be­gin­ning chemo­ther­apy to treat the dis­ease, which has spread to his liver.

But his on­col­o­gist is im­pressed at how well Xolani is re­spond­ing and is hope­ful for a pos­i­tive out­come.

“While his can­cer is ad­vanced, I think ul­ti­mately we could do some­thing for him,” Ogude says. “At this stage, what’s in his liver is not op­er­a­ble. We are of­fer­ing what is called con­ver­sion ther­apy. The idea is to con­vert him from a non-op­er­a­ble case to some­body who can be op­er­ated on later. At which stage this hap­pens de­pends on how quickly he re­sponds to the chemo­ther­apy.”

Fel­low ra­dio per­son­al­ity Mark Pil­grim (48) is no stranger to can­cer. He was only 18 when he was di­ag­nosed with stage 3 tes­tic­u­lar can­cer. It spread to his lungs and kid­neys. Af­ter be­ing can­cer-free for 28 years, he’s now a mo­ti­va­tional speaker for the cause and he en­cour­ages Xolani not to ac­cept de­feat.

“My re­ac­tion to hear­ing Xolani’s news was ini­tial shock and sad­ness. I’m just send­ing pos­i­tive en­ergy that he has the will and men­tal stamina to with­stand what is go­ing to be a tough jour­ney,” Mark says.

“I re­mem­ber dur­ing the dark times of my chemo­ther­apy I was de­bat­ing if I should con­tinue or not be­cause so of­ten it’s the chemo­ther­apy that makes you re­ally ill. I said to my­self, ‘Just re­mem­ber one day you won’t be in the dark­ness any­more, you’ll be in the light.’ ”

Xolani, who mar­ried Peggy-Sue in 2015, says he’s sur­rounded by huge sup­port and has every­thing to live for.

He has two daugh­ters from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship and Peggy-Sue has one daugh­ter. He made it clear in broad­cast that his loved ones are keep­ing him go­ing.

“Fam­ily is at the cen­tre of this en­tire thing. It’s your fam­ily that makes you stay pos­i­tive. I’m not ready to die yet.”

‘I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I live well. I eat well . . . it can hap­pen to any­one’

Xolani’s wife, Peggy-Sue Khu­malo, a for­mer Miss South Africa, was with him when he an­nounced his con­di­tion on air.

ABOVE: Fans were sad to hear why Xolani had taken time off air. LEFT: Ra­dio per­son­al­ity Mark Pil­grim is a can­cer survivor.

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