Today I say that I’m raising awareness of cancer, but in reality, we’re already very aware of its existence and effects – we just don’t think that it will ever happen to us.
If I rewind the clock eight weeks in my mind, that was exactly my mentality: cancer was something I was aware of, I read about and was scared by: we all know someone who has been directly affected by it - I just didn’t think that I would ever be one of those people.
When I was called in after my check-up, I knew it wasn’t going to be good news, but my mind just didn’t go to that worst case scenario of cancer. When the doctor sat me down and explained the situation, I was in shock, and went into autopilot. I knew that I was in good hands, and that the only action available to me was listening to the next steps and mentally preparing myself for surgery.
I went straight to the emergency room, and it was only as I was sitting there in a moment of solitude that the full weight of my diagnosis hit me like a train: I had testicular cancer.
Here I was - just 25 years old, at the peak of athletic fitness and competing at the highest level. In mere hours I had gone from feeling invincible to being confronted with my own mortality. That’s the thing though – it can happen to anyone.
I am so grateful that I had access to the medical care that I do as a player: my surgery was swiftly arranged and as far as we can tell entirely successful. By catching it early I am now, already training for the new season and looking forward to the future.
I’ll still have check-ups to make sure that it doesn’t come back, and mentally that’s really difficult to overcome. When you come out of surgery there’s a roadmap to building up your strength again physically, but there’s no set route for your mind – and that’s been a big one for me. There might be no signs of cancer in my body anymore, but it’s definitely left a mark on my consciousness.
I have that milestone in my head of getting back on the pitch and playing, but at the same time I am now more aware of my vulnerabilities. To be a goalkeeper you need to literally put your body on the line – you need to be brave and confident in your body, and that needs to be built up just as much as any muscle.
I don’t see this as a negative – if anything it’s the most positive learning that I can take from my experience, and this is really what I want to raise awareness for. Don’t be scared to be vulnerable: acknowledge your body when it’s trying to tell you that something is not right, and go to a doctor to get it checked.
“We all know about cancer, but what we really need to know is how to cope with it”— by Marco Carducci
It doesn’t matter how young you are, how fit you are, or how potentially awkward the experience might be – a moment’s embarrassment is worth your peace of mind. And if it comes to that ‘worst case scenario’ like it did for me, then you’ve already taken the first step to beating it. For me, this is what made the difference between standing where I am now looking forward to the start of the season, and facing months of treatment and potential spread (of cancer) – which would affect not only my career, but my life.
It's so important to remember that, as scary as it seems, cancer is not uncommon. I’ve been so moved by the people who have reached out to me on social media after I shared my story to tell me about their own experiences.
One man in particular, a fan of Cavalry FC, got in touch to say he was also undergoing treatment for testicular cancer. His two young kids didn’t really understand and were constantly worried. They come to all of our matches. After I shared my story, they were able to look at me - someone they looked up to – and start to process that things could be okay. It was just a case of normalising it for them and realising that sometimes, unfortunately, this was part of life, but their Dad wasn’t in it alone.
We all know about cancer, but what we really need to know is how to cope with it – whether that’s facing a dreaded doctor’s appointment, opening up about our experiences, or even reaching out to those that might need to talk.
Vulnerability is not a weakness against cancer, it might just be our strongest way of fighting.