Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Another trip to Mexico for man battling cancer

Raising money for second round of treatments at clinic

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Desmond Snyman, who has colon cancer that has spread to his hip and lungs, is travelling to Mexico for alternative treatment.

TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Desmond Snyman, who has colon cancer that has spread to his hip and lungs, is travelling to Mexico for alternative treatment.

BRANDON -- Desmond Snyman has 40 tumours on his lungs and doctors have told him he has only another year left to live -- so he's seeking a cure at a Mexican clinic.

Aside from his light blue cane with a polished handle he jokingly wishes hid a sword, Snyman looks calm, happy and healthy.

"I'm not a number," the 34-year-old said in his slight South African accent, which has faded since moving to Canada 10 years ago. "I'm still really young and strong. And just because that's what they say, it doesn't mean it's going to happen."

Snyman was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009. He went through surgery, 10 months of chemotherapy and was back to normal and back at his job as the area director for Youth for Christ's U-Turn program.

He enjoyed several years of remission with his wife and three kids -- two sons, five-year-old Sebastian who was born shortly after his procedure, and seven-year-old Tobias, along with his two-year-old daughter, Sarika, whom Snyman describes as a "miracle" baby after he and his wife, Rebecca, were told they wouldn't be able to have any more children.

'I'm not a number. I'm still really young and strong. And just because that's what they say, it doesn't mean it's going to happen'

In April 2013, the cancer returned. It came back fast and strong. The cells reappeared and took hold of his lungs and one of his hip bones.

Doctors gave him two years, but he's determined to give himself as much of a chance to live as possible.

That's why Snyman will be travelling to Mexico in September to get alternative treatment for his cancer, treatment he said works with the conventional procedures he's getting in Brandon.

This will be the second time travelling to the clinic after he and his wife raised the $40,000 he needed for a trip last summer through the online fundraising website Youcaring.com.

Snyman was, understandably, skeptical at first and remained so even after a clinic representative picked him up at the airport for his first visit.

There was a nagging thought in the back of his mind it may all have been a scam.

Money is now being raised for a second -- and hopefully last -- trip in September for a three-week stint that will target the cancerous DNA directly instead of just the tumours.

Snyman is part of the less than one per cent of Manitoba hospital patients who received treatment outside of Canada last year, said a wait-time report by the Fraser Institute, but that number has been rising, albeit slightly.

CancerCare Manitoba president and CEO Dr. Sri Navaratnam said it's not uncommon for people facing terminal cancer to take seemingly drastic measures, such as the one Snyman has elected to take.

"It is very understandable," she said. "A number of people seek alternative medicine."

CancerCare highlights the need for cancer patients to keep their doctors at home abreast of any medicine they may want to take to eliminate any potential unwanted interactions with treatments.

Navaratnam also insisted Canada's health-care system is "constantly" looking at new forms of treatment within the medical community -- treatments that are vetted by national and provincial medical panels. "We reach out for the best treatment possible," she said.

"What worries me, sometimes, is there's lots of claims made on alternative medicine... and some people lose all their savings on these. The one thing to keep in mind is oncologists want to do the best they can and to get whatever is available," Navaratnam said.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2014 A4

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Updated on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 7:25 AM CDT: Adds photo

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