Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
DIAGNOSED with prostate cancer at the beginning of the year, prominent Bulawayo-based boxing instructor Philip “Striker” Ndlovu refuses to let the terminal illness restrict him from doing what he loves most – training upcoming boxers.
When first informed about his condition, Ndlovu felt his days on earth had come to an end.
Just the thought of prostate cancer psychologically hit the 65-year-old trainer, who was forced to adjust his way of life.
He suffered huge emotional strain trying to come to terms with what some view as a “death sentence”.
According to medical research, all men are at risk of developing prostate cancer. The most common risk factor is age. The older a man gets, the greater the chances of getting prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.
In its more advanced state, prostrate cancer may cause signs and symptoms such as trouble urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, blood in semen, discomfort in the pelvic area, bone pain and erectile dysfunction.
Ndlovu, who is credited for nurturing a number of Bulawayo boxers that include former World Boxing Association (WBA) Pan African heavyweight champion Thamsanqa Dube and ex-World Boxing Federation (WBF) Africa heavyweight title holder Elvis “Bulawayo Bomber” Moyo, has had a urinary catheter to help him pass urine since January.
Since insertion of the urinary catheter, Ndlovu, who offered free boxing training sessions at Tshaka Youth Centre at Makokoba’s Stanley Square, had to suspend his classes.
The trainer, a popular figure in Bulawayo’s oldest township known for his passion for using boxing to get youngsters off the streets, also held boxing classes at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) arena based ProActive gym, taking health enthusiasts through their boxing paces.
Ndlovu’s condition deteriorated due to the cancer and he endured excruciating pain that literally confined him to a bed after failing to raise US$3 000 to undergo a trans-urethral resection of the prostate (Turp) procedure.
A Turp is an operation to remove the parts of prostate that are pressing on the urethra, to make it easier to pass urine.
“It’s painful whenever it’s time to change the catheter, which happens every five or six weeks. That pain is so unbearable because when they remove and replace the catheter, it scratches the urethra. The pain goes for days and I need strong painkillers and antibiotics to avoid infection,” said Ndlovu.
But on Monday, Ndlovu decided to leave his Ejingeni Flat in Makokoba and walk about 800m to open the Tshaka Gym so that he trains an enthusiastic 17-year-old aspiring boxer Blessing Tozoona, who is on “holiday” in Bulawayo from Harare.
What fascinated Ndlovu about Tozoona, a Form 5 learner at Prince Edward, is how he reached out to the renowned trainer after being linked by Moyo.
Tozoona says he used the popular search engine Google to check for trainers in Bulawayo and when he “bumped” into Moyo’s name, he initiated communication via Facebook.
“I thought Moyo was in Bulawayo and he suggested that I talk to coach Striker. I feel honoured to train under such a great man, who nurtured two African heavyweight champions Thamsanqa
Dube and Elvis Moyo,” said Tozoona, who is also a member of the Prince Edward Boxing Club.
After Tozoona’s second training session at Tshaka on Tuesday, Ndlovu said: “I think Blessing has brought blessing in my life. I’ve found purpose again and despite the pain that I’m going through,
I’m doing what I love most. Boxing is my passion and training people is what I love. I refuse to be put down by prostate cancer. I’ll continue doing what I love.”
During Tozoona’s session, Ndlovu taught the lad how to maintain guard, throw some jabs and combination punches using a punching bag.
He occasionally sat down to “catch some breath” while watching his student.
The celebrated trainer still needs financial assistance to undergo surgery that he missed on April 2 after failing to raise about US$3 000 which he had been quoted in February.
“You know moving with a catheter is very uncomfortable and that is why I had to spend time indoors. At times the bag gets full before the scheduled day to change my catheter and I end up putting a plastic bag to support it. That’s very bad and when it’s like that it means I can’t go out.
“I’ve been going to Mpilo to change the catheter, but nothing has been done with regards to addressing my illness that is why I’m still appealing to well-wishers to assist me go for surgery. I don’t know what stage the cancer is, but I’m hopeful that I can beat it,” Ndlovu said.
The US$3 000 will cater for Turp, the hospital bill, imaging, surgical assistant and anaesthetist.
Touched by Ndlovu’s plight, football legend Zenzo Moyo, whose grandmother’s house is next to Ndlovu’s residence, has been occasionally donating foodstuffs to the boxing coach.
Those interested in assisting Ndlovu can contact him on his mobile number +263776125390. — @ZililoR