Tom Smith gives update on his cancer battle and admits he was ‘looking down the abyss at one point’

Former Scotland captain Tom Smith has given an update on his battle with cancer.

Tom Smith in action for Scotland against Italy in 2003.
Tom Smith in action for Scotland against Italy in 2003.

The ex-Lions Test prop has been fighting colon/bowel cancer for 14 months and has had more than 40 doses of chemotherapy.

In an interview with Scottish Rugby, Smith admits he was “looking down the abyss at one point” but says now the cancer is “stable”.

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He has been exercising on a static bike and has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from the rugby community and the fundraising that has taken place on his behalf.

Tom Smith playing against South Africa at Murrayfield in 2008. Picture: David Rogers/Allsport

Smith, who lives in France, said: “The fund-raising and support have been amazing. You are sat in hospital and you feel as they do the tests that this is serious. It’s quite frightening. You realise just how exposed you are, and you can feel you are on your own.

“The reality is we were looking down the abyss at one point. I feel very fortunate.

“I’ve been OK. I have been doing fine. It’s always a bit tough in the winter with the chemo as your extremities, your fingers and toes, are more sensitive to the cold.”

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The 49-year-old was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer in autumn 2019 and has since undergone a brutal regimen of chemotherapy.

“The tumour is getting smaller and is under control,” Smith said in an interview with “The cancer is stable. The lesions on my brain, there’s no sign of any problem, any return.

“The chemo now is a lot easier than it was at the start when I had to stay in hospital and I would be pretty much out of it for a day or two.”

“You have to regard this as a chronic condition, so you don’t stop the chemotherapy treatment. I had to get my head around that, but the chemo will stop it [the cancer] coming back.”

Smith’s former Scotland team-mate Rob Wainwright has taken a lead in fundraising, organising a Wounded Lions charity cycle from Twickenham to BT Murrayfield ahead of last year’s Calcutta Cup. Scottish Rugby’s own charity, the Murrayfield Injured Players Foundation, has also offered assistance.

Smith, who played for Dundee HSFP, Watsonians, Caledonia Reds, Glasgow Warriors, Northampton and Brive, has been supporting the colon cancer charity, 40tude, for which he is now an ambassador.

He said: “40tude is focused on improving the early detection and treatment of colon cancer because, if we do that, more lives can be saved.

“It’s really important for everyone, both men and women, to be aware of the symptoms of colon cancer – the second most common cancer in the UK – and to act if you spot them because if identified early, colon cancer is much easier to treat.

“Symptoms you should look for include a persistent change in your bowel habits, blood in your stool or abdominal pain. If you experience any of these, you should seek advice urgently from your GP. Don't delay in getting help. It could make all the difference.

“The good news is that colon cancer is treatable if it is detected early. The best way to detect colon cancer is through regular screening.”

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