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Medal winner’s cancer battle

By Jake Beleski

Talented powerlifter Vincent Capes came down with a sickness that was thought to be glandular fever in October last year.

He had no idea, up until around two weeks ago, just how serious his illness was.

Capes, 18, was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a type of blood cancer — over a year after first feeling its negative effects.

The former Rathkeale College student, son of Diana and Paul Capes of Eketahuna, had a lump on his neck that he was repeatedly told was benign.

Once the lump had been removed, he finally found out just how serious it was.

It has not changed his competitive nature, and on Thursday he competed in the under-83kg sub junior division of the Asia-Oceania Powerlifting Championships in Christchurch.

The competitors compete in back squat, bench press and deadlift and Capes defied the odds to claim three golds and two silvers, across the Oceania and Asia-Oceania categories.

Vincent Capes doing what he loves best. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Vincent Capes doing what he loves best. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The build-up to the event had been extremely tough, he said.

“I had my surgery and now the top of my jaw just below my ear is all really numb — I can’t feel any of it.

“I have no sensation in my ear and part of my neck is a bit stuffed.

“They had to cut some of the nerves to get into the tumour — they took that out and it was all good, but I couldn’t train for a couple of days.”

Capes weighed 80kg before the operation, but dropped to 76kg for the competition, the lightest in his class by about 3kg.

That was no barrier to his emotionally-charged performance, as he went out to prove the cancer would not stop him following his dream.

Capes described the pain he went through in receiving the devastating news, which took him totally by surprise.

“They cut it out and did some tests, and then I went down to the hospital by myself thinking it was nothing,” he said.

“Then they told me I had cancer.

“I got in a bit of a mess because I was there by myself — I was in so much shock that the doctor had to call my parents and talk to them.”

The treatment process has already begun, with further scans lined up in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s reasonably low-grade so it’s slow-growing which is good.

“Most lymphomas are curable but just require some nasty treatment — on Thursday morning I got the results that it was likely it hasn’t spread anywhere else in my body and is just located in my neck, but they have to do another scan to confirm that next week.”

He plans to move more into weightlifting next year, and the cancer had not changed his desire to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“I was looking at Commonwealth Games 2018 but it’s a bit of a long shot.

“To go to those games you have to be number one, and I’m currently 19th in seniors — it’s pretty stiff competition.”

He was thankful for the support he had received since the news of his illness broke.

“There’s a lot of people, especially at the New Zealand Powerlifting Federation that have been getting behind me.

“It’s been really great.”

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