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More about Mike Bolus (1976F)

Living with no regrets after surviving cancer. Mike shares his journey as part of our "Where are they now" series.

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Class of 1976

We recently published a brilliant article about Male Health written for us by Mike Bolus (1976F)

As part of our Where are they now series, we also asked Mike to give us an update on what he has been up to, and how he became a Urologist.  He shared his fascinating life story with us.  To read the beautifully detailed version, please be sure to scroll to the bottom of the article.  Here follows a brief bio of his journey so far:

Mike was born in Cape Town at Kingsbury Hospital. His first twelve years were spent in Mossel Bay, where his father, George, worked in the family firm, Prince Vintcent. This time in Mossel Bay was a period of profound influence, marked by barefoot adventures on local farms, fostering a deep love for family, friends, and the simple joys of life like fishing, camping, and sailing.

Mike's journey led him to Bishops Prep in Cape Town, where a surprising Latin curriculum planted the seed for a career in law or medicine. He followed in the footsteps of his brother, Bob Bolus (1974F), already a legend for his athletic prowess. Will Bolus (1982F), the youngest brother, continued the tradition, marking five generations of Boluses at Bishops.

Boarding school life at Bishops was an adventure filled with midnight feasts, covert candy runs, and rugby Saturdays at Newlands. Mike's dedication to sports defined his school years, culminating in a memorable victory against Rondebosch in the inaugural Sevens tournament.

With no career path in sight, Mike spent a year in National Service, where a career assessment pointed him toward medicine. Overcoming a fear of blood, he realized that medicine was his true calling. He studied medicine at Stellenbosch University and formed a lifelong friendship with Chris Anderson (1978F) while tackling the rigors of medical school.

After various stints in the medical world, Mike found his niche in Urology, drawn by the allure of a balanced lifestyle and the camaraderie of his colleagues. Along the way, he met and married Dorothea Urbach, who remained a steadfast support throughout his career.

In 1998, Mike started his private practice in Somerset West, embracing the bonds with old schoolmates as patients. A prostate cancer diagnosis in 2018 led to a successful surgery performed by his close friend Chris Anderson, a master of robotic surgery. Mike made a full recovery, forever grateful for Chris's expertise.

Mike continues to practice at Vergelegen Mediclinic, balancing his professional life with weekend mountain biking, exploring the winelands, escaping to the bush, and pursuing interests in birdwatching and plant identification.

His family remains close-knit, with a daughter pursuing sustainable development and a son studying entrepreneurship in the UK. Mike's life has been one without regrets, full of cherished moments and enduring friendships.

My Life's Journey, a personal account by Mike Bolus

I was born at Kingsbury Hospital, Cape Town and then spent the first twelve years of my life in Mossel Bay, where my father, George (1941, Ogilvie), worked in the family firm on my mother’s side, Prince Vintcent.

This was a general dealership started in 1863 and when we moved to Mossel Bay the firm was under the leadership of my uncles Nelles Vintcent (1942, School) and Michael Vintcent (1956m School).

This was a very formative and happy time for me spent mostly barefoot and often on farms in the area, and where I developed a deep appreciation of family and close friends, the great outdoors, and the simple things in life, like fishing, camping and sailing.

When I reached standard four (grade 6) at age 10, I was sent to Bramley at Bishops Prep as that was when Latin was commenced in the curriculum. My mother felt strongly that Latin was an essential skill if one had any interest in pursuing a career in law or medicine – neither of which was even vaguely on my radar! My brother, Bob (1974, Founders ), who preceded me by two years, had already achieved legendary status as a multi-talented sportsman at that stage and was a very tough act to follow! Will (1982,  Founders), our youngest brother followed us to Bishops where we were the 4th generation of Boluses to attend the school. All our sons have subsequently also been to Bishops, making them the 5th generation.

Despite being rather homesick, I really enjoyed my Prep boarding school days getting up to all kinds of mischief like midnight feasts and swims, bunking out to buy sweets at the café down the road and apple pieing beds with my co-conspirators Jan Newman (1976, Founders) and Gerald Gant (1976, Founders).

Every Saturday during the rugby season was spent at Newlands, pockets stuffed with peanuts and raisons. Even though my parents moved to Cape Town when I went to college, I stayed on as a boarder in Founders, forming many close friendships and being able to get the most out of the school, which had so much to offer.

Chris Anderson (1978, Founders) was a few years behind me, but the seed was planted for a lifelong friendship when he teased me mercilessly for telling the House not to “cut across the quad corn lawners”!!

Sport dominated my school career with the highlight probably being the comfortable victory over Rondebosch in the final of the inaugural Sevens tournament at Villagers, which is still played yearly. Adrian Kuiper (1977, White) performed particularly well that night, shaking off his cart-horse status to outstrip the very speedy Rondebosch wing like a true thoroughbred!

I loved my Bishops days and the life lessons it taught me.

As I had no career plans at that stage, I completed one year of National Service during which I did a career guidance assessment which strongly indicated that I should consider medicine.

Up to that point I had had a serious phobia of blood and had never considered medicine as a career option. However, I was assured that this was something that could be overcome and, after taking that out of the equation, realised that it was exactly where I wanted to be.

After a year in BSc (Agric) at Stellenbosch University I applied successfully to study medicine, continuing at Stellenbosch/Tygerberg Hosp. It was there that Chris Anderson and I got together again and tackled Anatomy, Physiology and other challenging medical topics for 6 fun filled years!

After many fainting spells I managed to overcome the blood thing and ironically developed a keener interest in the surgical disciplines. After an intern year at Edendale in Pietermaritzburg, a two year stint in Orkney and another two years in the UK where I did an FRCS(Edin) primary and various surgical MO locums between backpacking through Europe, I applied to UCT/Groote Schuur to do Orthopaedic surgery.

While awaiting a post, I rotated through various surgical disciplines including Trauma unit and Urology. After sage advice from an older Urological colleague, I began noticing that far fewer Urologists were present in the Trauma unit than Orthopaedic surgeons, especially over weekends! This got me thinking about life style choices and I eventually decided to specialize in Urology, a decision that I have never regretted as Urologists tend to have less after-hours work and are generally nicer people!

I again joined forces with Chris Anderson and we specialized together, sharing many hours of hard work, but always tinged with humour. During this time, I also met and married Dorothea Urbach, who has been the rock in my life ever since. She was an intern working at Somerset Hospital, Green Point. She started specializing in Anaesthetics, but sacrificed her career when we started our family and now works as a Senior clinical research physician in Somerset West.

After I qualified, we spent a year in London where she worked as an Anaesthetic MO at various hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, where she was offered a post to complete her specialization. I worked as a consultant at Whipps Cross Hospital gaining valuable experience.  However, we had made the decision to return to SA and in 1998 I entered private practice at Vergelegen Mediclinic, Somerset West.

I shared my time between Somerset West and Stellenbosch Mediclinic, as well as the local government hospital doing consulting and surgical sessions there. Along the way I have had the privilege of meeting many Old Boys as patients in that part of the world and the extraordinary bond we have as ODs was invariably reinforced.

I also had the good fortune to work alongside the perennial joker, Dirk Hoffman (1973, School), as well as Ian Findlay (1973, School), who has subsequently retired, and Peter Hardcastle (1999). Dirk certainly has debunked the myth that Orthopaedic surgeons must have larger forearms than head circumferences to be successful!

I have had my own journey with prostate cancer, having been diagnosed with an early form of the disease in 2018 and I made the decision to have my prostate removed. Chris Anderson, who is a very accomplished robotic surgeon, immediately stepped into the breech and offered to perform my surgery. It must have been an extremely difficult decision as he knew it would be technically challenging and he was a very close friend, with me being the godfather of one of his boys, Julian.

With all due respect to our local surgeons, he had far more experience having been at the cutting edge when robotic surgery was first introduced in London in the early 2000’s, and had mostly perfected the art of both prostatic and renal robotic surgery.

The surgery performed in Cape Town went very well and despite the initial setback of post-op infection, which could certainly not be attributed to the surgeon, I have made a full, cancer free recovery. I am forever grateful to Chris for his surgical skills and willingness to help me out in a situation which must have been extremely challenging for him. I know that whatever hair he has left, certainly turned greyer in the following months! Words of gratitude will never be enough!

I continue to be in full time private practice at Vergelegen Mediclinic only with no immediate plans of retirement – maybe in a few years! I no longer commute to Stellenbosch as the steady build up of traffic over the years became rather frustrating. Unfortunately, the government sessions at Helderberg Hospital were discontinued as Tygerberg Registrars now cover the local government hospital. I miss the interaction I had with the patients and staff there as it kept me humble, and I felt I was helping to make a difference. I would still like to get involved in Day hospitals and clinics in the future wherever I end up to keep giving something back!

In my spare time(weekends) I really enjoy mountain biking and have partaken in numerous events over the years with various friends, including Jan Newman and my son, Greg (2018, Founders). There are beautiful trails around us and I am often joined by Doro and a circle of friends with a similar enthusiasm to explore these trails.

I love listening to music and living in the winelands has helped me develop a limited wine palate which has been enhanced by Dave Trafford (1981, White) from De Trafford Vineyards and Nick Gebers (1982, White) from Post House Vineyards, both superb winemakers.

I cherish spending time in the bush regularly to escape from the hustle and bustle of private practice, which is essential to do on a regular basis to keep the balance. I follow sport closely still and I am trying to become a ‘birder’ and learn more about plants, as my great-great grandfather Harry did, having founded the Bolus Herbarium. I may need to pursue these interests when I have more time, as I am not making much progress currently!

Our daughter, Claire, is now 26 and pursuing a career in sustainable development, having completed her Masters in that direction. Our son, Greg is 23 and is studying a Masters in Entrepreneurship at Bath University in the UK and at this stage has an interest in getting involved in poverty alleviation.

We remain extremely close as a family and I am very privileged to have all of my sisters and brothers and most of my extended family around me. We have regular gatherings to reinforce our close bonds.

I am also still in constant touch with numerous close school friends including Jan Newman, Gerald Gant, Adrian Kuiper, James Jefferey (1976, Founders) and Stoffel Ferrandi (1976, School), to name but a few.

Life is too short for regrets, but I can honestly say that with the life I have lived, I have none.

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