The steel that kept Alan alive

IT was while he was having a friendly round of golf that the call came which turned Alan Stubbs’ life on his head.

 

And what transpired was the biggest fight of his life as he showed an iron will and determination to TWICE beat cancer.

Stubbs, in his footballing prime as a 28-year-old Celtic star, was playing a round of golf back in 1999 when a call came through on his mobile. It was the Parkhead club doctor with bombshell news that the big defender had failed a drugs test after being called to give a urine sample after the Scottish Cup Final defeat against Rangers a few weeks earlier.

The numbed Stubbs was told that he was producing a hormone usually found in pregnant women — which pointed to testicular cancer.

He underwent treatment and went from monthly to three monthly, then six monthly check-ups — resuming his playing career — when a specialist then discovered a small tumour to the right side of his spine.

Aggressive chemotherapy was needed to shrink the growth and he then needed a nine-hour operation to remove the tumour, the wall of muscle surrounding his back being so tough that surgeons had no choice but to cut him open from the front and move organs around to perform the procedure.

It was an iron will that saw him recover from the illness, making his comeback in May, 2001, in a league match against Hibernian where he came on as a second-half sub to a rousing reception from both sets of fans and scored Celtic's fourth goal in a 5–2 win.

He said at the time: “I was only diagnosed with testicular cancer because I had to submit a urine sample for a random drugs test. It turned out I was producing a hormone that is usually found in pregnant women. 

“I later had a relapse when a tumour was found at the base of my spine. I had chemotherapy and came back and played the game again.”

And he hopes that winning his battle will provide inspiration to others.

“It can be done. There is life after cancer,” he said.

“I feel I’m a much better person for that experience, too. It has made me appreciate things a lot more.

People have always said I’ve been very unlucky because I’ve had cancer twice. My response is that I’m the luckiest guy going because had it not been for football I would be dead.

“That’s not me coming away with a flippant comment. Had I not been pulled in for a drugs test after the Scottish Cup Final it would have gone undetected.

“As soon as we hear the word ‘cancer’ we hide away. But in the past few years it has become more open.

“If you feel something, get it checked. There’s a 98 per cent success rate if testicular cancer is treated early.

“I’d had a couple of pains, like a sharp needle. I hid from the warning signs. But after I was diagnosed I had one million percent faith in the doctors. Lots of people don’t make it though and that hammers home the harsh reality.”

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