Marathon Man faces his greatest challenge

June 24, 2010 by Odile Faludi - Maccabi NSW
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Recently Maccabi News spoke with Leonard Gentin…a sportsman battling bowel cancer.

Leonard Gentin

As you can see from the picture, 51-yr-old Leonard Gentin is the image of good health and good looks. Looks can be deceiving and the word “Marathon” has taken on a totally new meaning for Leonard. Just prior to his diagnosis of bowel cancer he partook in the Hawkesbury Classic. 111kms of gruelling Kayaking during the night from Windsor to Brooklyn Bridge. When you speak to Leonard about this final Marathon prior to falling ill it is like he just did a walk in the park. He said, “I was feeling so well I had just finished the Marathon and was really in peak fitness. It was my routine colonoscopy, which I do religiously every year. You see I have a condition called Ulceratives Colitis, (inflammatory bowel disease). This is very common amongst Ashkenazi Jews, (Eastern European descent). I have had this condition since I was 13 years old so going for my yearly colonoscopy was no big deal. That morning, I recall vividly my best friend ringing me to wish me good luck, and my response was it will be fine, it’s just routine.”

December last year, in a split second, Leonard Gentin’s life was turned upside down when the colonoscopy revealed he had a tumor. Leonard had no symptoms and on the contrary was feeling better than he had felt in years at peak fitness. His story is all too familiar but Leonard is determined to raise awareness in the things “we must do” to keep ourselves healthy and alive. His words are direct, “Don’t miss those check ups, don’t think you don’t need it because you feel fine. That check up could save your life by early detection.”

Leonard underwent the first operation on December 8th, 2009. He awoke to a massive scarring and the need to wear an Ileostomy bag  for six months until his next operation which would start the process of reversal. During that time he continued to maintain his fitness. Leonard explains, “It was my way of dealing with this madness, just keeping fit. So I would literally walk for hours and eventually recommenced Ocean swimming. Yes, even with a bag I devised a method of stashing the bag into my speedos, placing a vest on top and off I would go.”

On May 19th 2010, Leonard had the second of three operations. Part of a process of reversal so hopefully he will be back to normal by the end of all these surgeries, bagless is the goal. Leonard appreciates family and friends who have supported him. He believes when adversity hits and you are tested to the limit your mental determination is your greatest asset. Leonard finished off by saying, “I have always appreciated life, I never took it for granted, but I now realise life takes you where you go … and awareness is the key.” Maccabi News would like to say, that Leonard throughout the discussion illustrated nothing but courage, positivity and was truly inspirational to interview. We wish him a speedy recovery.

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