UTD Unscripted: It's time to give something back
It is massive for people with cancer to just have hope.
I’ve been walking through the child oncological unit at The Christie and I was just thinking to myself: Why should they have to go through that?
Seeing it makes me want to give something back, maybe using the platform I have to do that. I have to because, if it wasn’t for people doing that in the past, I don’t know where I would have been without the funding for research and everything that goes into the treatment.
I think sometimes there isn’t a light you can see at the end of the tunnel, especially mid-treatment. There is probably one good day every fortnight. And that’s it. You do feel that low at times and, even after treatment, when you’re still not back to normal, people don’t realise just how low you feel.
You feel like there is no progress but, now I’m out the other end, I can think back and appreciate there was progress and each day was closer. It’s hard at the time to think that, though. You just feel you’re bang in the middle of it and the end is all so far away.
The change in seasons, with winter approaching, took me back to the same stage I was at last year. So, I went into The Christie and called Steve Harcourt who works for the Teenage Cancer Trust and just wanted to see if there was anything I can do. I asked if there were any young lads who are in the ward and he let me know about a boy who was down from Scotland, who loves football.
He is having treatment on a brain tumour and is down from Scotland for 39 nights, leading up to Christmas, and he has a family with him.
Coming all the way down here at any time of the year for this is horrible, but especially with Christmas coming. The fact was I could maybe make his day – just a little. Jesse signed a shirt for me and he was absolutely buzzing when I gave it to him. It brought me happiness just to see him smiling a little bit through the treatment because I remember how bad it was.
It was a case of thinking how he’s thinking. Just the fact you can come in and, whether it’s taking his mind off it or changing his perspective, it doesn’t really matter. The time you spend with him has completely changed how he was feeling and I spoke to the guys afterwards and they said he hadn’t smiled like that in the two weeks since coming in.
For me to hear that, I would do that every day.
Honestly, if anyone needs uplifting, if there’s anything I can do then I’m happy to help. I’d like to come in and just have a chat.
No injury even compares to it because then you know you can come back from it and work on things every day. When I was going through the treatment, I didn’t know what was helping me and there was no way of seeing if it was actually helping at the time.When you’re injured, you’re having surgery and different treatment which can make you feel better but you just don’t know that is the case at all when you’re recovering from cancer.
It was just completely new to me. Obviously, Joe Thompson, who overcame cancer twice during his playing career, helped me in terms of giving a helping hand from his similar experiences but it was just something so new. It just gets to the point where it’s almost… wait a minute now, I’ve just got to go and fight it.
You don’t have any hair. You don’t feel right.
Even the days when you’re feeling alright – maybe the one day all week – you’d turn and look in the mirror and it’s like, no, I still have cancer.
As a footballer, you’re used to having your appearance and building up to be in the best shape for the weekend. When you have it all taken away from you, it means it is really tough to look at yourself.
Football is my life so, if I wouldn’t have been able to play football again, I don’t know what I would have done.
Thankfully, I made it back and I remember the first day walking back into the training ground. I just wanted to say ‘hello’ to everyone really and I saw Kieran and Michael in the canteen, they’d been texting me throughout and I’d been given them updates.
The coaching staff invited me out onto the grass to watch the first team train and that is where I first met Ole and had a chat with him. I think Ole knew I was at the stage where I just wanted a bit of normality. I could not have asked for any more from the club. They did everything that I needed them to do and more.
When I was feeling low, I could speak to anyone here – whether it was the cleaners, kitchen staff, kit men. They all knew what was going on and wanted to know if I was well and feeling better.