March 5, 2024

Our ambassador and former Tall Black Alex Pledger spoke to Dom Harvey on his podcast, reflecting on his bowel cancer journey and where he is now mentally and physically.

Alex was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021, 4 days before his 34th birthday and underwent several treatments, including surgery, chemo and radiation.

Alex had an ostomy bag for over a year, which was removed in late 2022, which he says was “never something that I was embarrassed about.” Joking with Dom that he didn’t need to panic buy toilet paper during the pandemic.

“Life has been pretty much normal to the point where you wouldn’t even know something happened for the last six months or so… I’m on a pretty thorough surveillance program.” He is nearly two years into the surveillance testing, and so far, “everything has come back clear.”

When asked by Dom what he had learned about himself from his cancer journey, Alex said, “I don’t want to sound like I’m a prophet or anything, but how much power the mind has over your body and how keeping a positive mindset not giving in [to] the dark thoughts.

“I’d just be sitting there thinking [during his cancer journey] like, ‘What the f*ck man, why is this happening to me’ and actively choose to focus on the more positive things. The long-term prognosis is good, and I’m getting married soon.”

Alex and his wife Bailee got their wedding photos reshot late last year as he was in treatment during their wedding in 2021. “[The wedding] was obviously a fantastic day, but just looking back at the photos, they are kind of hard for us to look at just because it reminds us of such a shitty time.” The reshoot of the photos in Las Vegas felt “like a redemption.”

After retiring from basketball, he doesn’t plan what he will do next but feels “fortunate” not to be in a position where he has pressure to. He is “enjoying” life and supporting Bailee and her career goals, who supported him through his cancer journey.

“She was my cheerleader for ten years; it’s cool that things have flipped around, and I’m the biggest cheerleader for her now.”

Dom talks about the prolific amount of bowel cancer we have in New Zealand and Alex’s struggles with being diagnosed because he was young. “Bowel cancer is such a big thing, but it isn’t talked about because it’s not a sexy chat. I think someone like you and Dean Barker, who I’ve had on the podcast talking about it, is really good for awareness, and I think it’s really powerful,” said Dom.

Alex goes on to say, “It’s the second deadliest cancer in New Zealand, and statistically, somebody dies from it every 8 hours, you know. A lot of the time, people and, unfortunately, doctors and GPs as well, especially if you’re a younger person, assume that it’s other things. I saw multiple GPs; they put it down to stress.”

“I’d encourage anybody to kind of if you just if you notice any sort of difference in the way you feel and the way things function. Ten minutes feeling uncomfortable in a doctor’s office versus 18 months of the stuff that I went through, it’s not really a choice.”

Dom agrees, saying, “NZ men, we really do need to get over that… There are big pushes now with Bowel Cancer New Zealand and the likes of you and Dean Barker talking about this. I think that’s fantastic. It creates awareness.”

Pictured Dom and Alex and Alex and Bailee at their Las Vegas reshoot.