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Marcelo Tabárez on mental health: “Talking makes you stronger”

01 June 2021
Marcelo Tabárez overcame testicular cancer six years ago. He says that talking to a psychologist helped him through difficult moments.

Marcelo is one of four players collaborating with FIFPRO’s mental health awareness programme, Are you ready to talk? The 28-year old Uruguayan player talks about his fight with cancer and shares his advice.

“I felt that extra help from someone outside my environment was necessary and it did me super good.”

It all started with a doping control in February 2015. Marcelo went there and was actually happy, because he never had a doping test before and thought it would be an interesting experience. But he tested positive. “I knew that something was wrong, because it was impossible that I would test positive for doping.”

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Something was wrong indeed. It appeared that his positive test was the consequence of a malignant tumor. He had to undergo four months of treatment, including chemotherapy, to overcome testicular cancer.

“At first, I was not sure whether I was going to survive. But after a while, I relaxed a bit. Yet, I also realised that difficult moments were ahead for me, my family and my loved ones.”

Marcelo’s main goal was returning to the pitch as a player, but as he didn’t know what was awaiting him during treatment, he experienced moments of anxiety. “It was all new to me and my family. The doctors gave me a positive prognosis, with a 95 percent chance that I would recover. But you can't keep your mind from thinking about the 5 percent chance of it not happening.”

“I went to a psychologist and honestly, it helped me a lot to talk with someone outside my own circle”

“I always kept positive because of the support I received from my family, friends, club and teammates. However, I felt very anxious. The four-month treatment seemed eternal to me.”

There were difficult moments, for example when Marcelo lost all his hair. “It totally changed my face. It was hard getting up and seeing myself in the mirror.” Or the many moments he felt nauseous and had to vomit. “But luckily, they said it would stop after four months and it did.”

“I had many other problems, but the hardest thing to deal with was anxiety.”

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Some doctors advised him to look for extra help. “I went to a psychologist and honestly, it helped me a lot to talk with someone outside my own circle. Someone with another point of view who makes me look at things differently. I went for a month-and-a-half and then I stopped going, as I felt strong enough. It did me super good.”

Marcelo returned to the pitch and was able to resume his career. He currently plays for second-tier team Villa Teresa. He advises fellow players to talk when they’re going through difficult moments.

“If you have a problem - it can be any kind of problem with your family, with your girlfriend, with you, I don't know - the truth is that talking is the best thing to do. When you keep things inside, you are hurting yourself.”

“I believe that communicating or talking about what you have been bottling up makes you stronger. In difficult moments, it helped me a lot.”