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My brother’s brave fight with rare cancer

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Things were finally looking up for Conroy Smith. After three years of unemployment, he'd found a job and was enjoying a new life in Nottinghamshire, England.

Then he was hit with a huge blow — a rare and terminal cancer, renal medullary carcinoma.

“It was a shock because we've never known anyone to suffer with cancer,” said his sister Romel Perinchief, who lives here. “It's not a trait in our family. My brother has never even really been sick. He's strong. He had been to his normal check-ups and they never suspected he might be sick.

“It started as a tumour in his kidney, which has spread now through his lungs and through his body. It's stage four. The doctors feel like with the chemo it can help and so far he's been really good and took to the treatments well.”

Mr Smith started getting cramps in his stomach in November. Doctors in Britain told the former Gosling's employee the pain could be related to anything from a bladder infection to pneumonia or tuberculosis. On December 5 it was confirmed it was cancer.

Renal medullary carcinoma is a highly aggressive malignant tumour of the kidney. It is almost exclusive to young black patients who carry the sickle cell trait.

“It has been very overwhelming, especially when we first heard,” Ms Perinchief said. “I flew out immediately to go and see him.

“It was stressful to see him like that; he had changed and didn't look the same. He was upset and emotional, lots of ups and downs. One minute he was okay and coping and the next minute he was breaking down.

“He lived in Bermuda for most of his life and if you knew him you'd know how much he loved to smile. That's the first thing you'd always see. He was just a happy person who loved life and was always friendly, but when I saw him for the first time he was looking sad.”

Ms Perinchief said her brother was not in much pain at the moment, but due to the cancer spreading to his lungs he was having trouble breathing.

“He has to have his oxygen quite frequently,” she said. “But with the latest scan, the doctor said his lungs were clearing up a bit, so there's an improvement with that.

“My brother really wants to get better and really wants to be home. He doesn't like the food at the hospital and he's been there for such a long time; since the beginning of December.

“He would be much more comfortable at home with the family, so right now we are trying to save up for that and his aftercare.”

The family will have to pay for doctors to visit Mr Smith at the house, all his medications, a new bed and handrails for the stairs.

“Normal healthcare out there is free, but when it's something that's severe like this they don't cover every single thing,” Ms Perinchief said.

“His cancer is rare and this type of treatment isn't entirely covered. When I asked the doctor he said out of his 20 years' experience, this was only the second case of this kind of cancer he's seen.”

Doctors believe Mr Smith may only have a year or two to live, but his family are staying optimistic.

“We're a small, tight-knit family. He's also my only brother and it's been really hard thinking that I might lose him, but I just keep the faith,” Ms Perinchief said.

“He was protective over me growing up, but he was a cool big brother. Whatever I did, he was just supportive of that.

“Back when he lived in Bermuda, he was pretty active in the local reggae music scene. He made songs under his stage name Spyro.

“He did a video for his song Cutsy Cutsy and it went viral. He had people calling him DJ Spyro — it was like he was a celebrity for a minute or two. He recently made a new song in the UK and really wants to get back at it.”

Music had helped keep her brother in good spirits, Ms Perinchief said. She bought him a keyboard with a mic and he's since been “rocking the hospital unit” playing his songs for the nurses on the ward.

“This whole situation just reminds me that life is short,” she said. “My new saying lately has been ‘faith, love and hope' — that's my motto.

“I have to keep the faith that everything will work out, hope that he gets better and show him the love I have for him.”

• For more information on how you can support Mr Smith's family, e-mail Romelperinchief@gmail.com

Family support: Bermudian Conroy Smith is being treated in Britain for a rare and terminal cancer. He is pictured with his mother, Roma Crockwell, in back, and his sisters Romel Perinchief, left, and Shaunelle Crockwell (Photograph supplied)
Close bond: Conroy Smith with his sister, Shaunelle Crockwell (Photograph supplied)
Sisterly love: Conroy Smith with his sisters, Romel Perinchief, left, and Shaunelle Crockwell (Photograph supplied)
Health battle: Conroy Smith had a rare and terminal cancer, renal medullary carcinoma, diagnosed last month. It is a highly aggressive malignant tumour of the kidney (Photograph supplied)

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Published January 13, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 12, 2016 at 10:19 pm)

My brother’s brave fight with rare cancer

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