'The first sign I had back in 2011 that something wasn’t right, was a pea-sized lump on my neck. I was the kit manager for Chesterfield FC at the time, so I spoke to the club physio and doctor, who both suggested I see my GP. It all escalated really quickly from that point. I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and had between 12 and 16 sessions of radiotherapy. The diagnosis was a shock because I’d had no other symptoms, such as night sweats, and I hadn’t felt unwell and had been working as usual. But to be honest, hearing I had cancer gave me the kick up the bum that I needed; I’d lost focus.
Ever since I was 10 years old, my future in football had been mapped out for me. I was really fortunate to have had that opportunity – but I don’t think I ever realised just how fortunate. I’d never actually appreciated how precious life was. By the time I turned 40, I’d lost my mum to cancer, been married and divorced twice, changed jobs loads. And I’d hit panic mode and turned to alcohol. But when I heard the word ‘cancer’ it was as if the fog lifted and it all became clear. I’d go so far as to say that being diagnosed with cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I had a purpose and a focus: get better, then make a difference.
So I stopped working for a year and began raising money for Lymphoma Action, trekking in the Arctic and raising over £6,000. I wrote a plan, worked for a sports charity, and I went into schools to talk about about my experiences, and how sport made me the person I am today to hopefully inspire a new generation. I became an Ambassador for Lymphoma Action, continuing to support the charity and spreading the word about the excellent services and support they offer.
I’ve loved this phase of my life; I’ve done more in this period than I ever did with the rest of my life. I feel like I’m finally giving something back and making my kids proud. And it all stems from that moment when I was told I had lymphoma. Until I was diagnosed, I didn’t realise just how prevalent it is – the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the most common in young people. I want to raise awareness of it so that people know what to look out for and where to go for help.
Now I’m back in the hospital where this journey began. I had my first treatment for lymphoma here at Chesterfield Hospital six or seven years ago. The staff are brilliant and it is quite comforting this time to see so many faces that I recognise. It’s hard being hooked up to the chemo for so many hours with just a very short break in between sessions. But there is some progress; the enlarged lymph nodes in my neck have reduced, which is a good sign.
I’m just taking one day at a time for now and trying to stay upbeat and positive about it. A good sense of humour has helped me get this far and I’m writing a blog about this latest experience, which I’m finding really therapeutic. I hope it might help others too.'