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Capes winning cancer battle

The 2015 Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards Jennian Homes Youth Sports Personality of the Year Vincent Capes (right), pictured with project manager Paul Pickett. PHOTO/FILE


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A battle with cancer, risky operations and plastic surgery.

Going through all of that in the space of a few months would be tough for anyone, but 19-year-old Vincent Capes is not about to let it stop him living his life.

Late last year Capes — a former Rathkeale College student — was diagnosed with cancer after a lump appeared on his neck, initially thought to be follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He had the tumour removed from his neck after the initial diagnosis, shortly before winning three golds and two silvers at the Asia-Oceania Powerlifting Championships in December.

Further tests showed he actually had a rare sub-type of lymphoma which is predominantly found in children, known as paediatric non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The star powerlifter had to have a tonsillectomy and bone marrow biopsy, before having 38 lymph nodes removed from his neck in March.

The tonsillectomy and bone marrow biopsy both came back negative, but the process of removing the lymph nodes from his neck took its toll.

“I had a big meeting with about 30 doctors because the type of cancer I had was so rare, they weren’t sure what to do,” Capes said.

“The first option, which was the safest, was to have surgery.”

The other options were chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but since he was so young there was a possibility of developing a secondary type of cancer from that treatment in later years.

The operation involved cutting a slit from his hairline down towards his Adam’s apple, and removing all the lymph nodes on that side of his neck.

The risks with that were possible nerve damage which could affect his right hand, right shoulder, voice box, tongue and ear.

Capes said the surgery went really well, and only three of the 38 lymph nodes had come back as cancerous.

But the nerves to his ear had been affected by the procedure.

“I had no feeling in that part of my face when I woke up.

“I actually woke up and had a really bad itch on my ear, and I couldn’t get rid of it.”

Despite everything he went through, Capes was still eager to return to the gym as soon as possible.

But a workplace accident in July stopped that plan in its tracks.

“I had an accident at work where I cut my thumb really bad . . . I cut it all the way to the bone, and that was another two months out.

“I cut the tendon and had to go to Wellington to get plastic surgery on it.”

Capes said he was recovering well from the surgery on his thumb and it shouldn’t affect his ability to get back into powerlifting.

He was hoping to be back in the gym fulltime, starting next week.

“I’m just looking forward to getting some routine going,” he said.

“With all the stuff with my neck and my hand I’ve spent a lot of time sitting around doing jack shit.”

The eventful year to date had been tough, but it had also changed his perspective on a lot of things, he said.

“It makes you appreciate things a little bit more with the way you treat people and how people talk to you.

“It’s definitely been a life changing experience.”

All going well Capes will return to the powerlifting platforms early next year, provided he doesn’t suffer any further setbacks.

“It’s starting to come along — I’m just trying not to beat myself up again.

“I hope to get on the platform again at some time next year — maybe in January or February.”

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