Geoff Horsfield: Telling the kids I had cancer was terrible...

07 October 2009 01:43
Determined: Horsfield is battling testicular cancer

You remember GeoffHorsfield, don't you?  The one-time jobbingbrickie went frompart-time footballer tothe Premier League.

Youknow, the one with testicularcancer.

A dreadful illness andproof, if any was still needed,that this particular diseasedoes not discriminate.

Horsfield, now player-assistantmanager to Micky Adams at PortVale, where he has played in sevenLeague Two games this season,hopes that by raising awarenesssomeone, anyone, out there mightbe spared what he went through.

His story starts one year ago.

'I was training at Walsall, trying toget match-fit,' he said.

'It was aThursday night, three days before Iwas due to play in a reserve match. I was heading out with my missus,Tina, and I had a bath.

'You'realways told at football clubs tocheck yourself. So I did. And I feltthis lump. I came out of the bathand said, 'I've felt this,'' and shereplied, 'Oh, it's a cyst''.'

'I left it a few days and I wenttraining but it was still in the backof my mind. I'm good friends withKevin Conod, West Bromwich'sclub doctor, so I texted and askedto see him.

'The minute he saw me I could tellby the look on his face it was serious. He referred me for a scan,straightaway.

'About a week had passed and Iwanted it to hurt so much that Ihad broken the skin of my scrotum.I knew that they said cancerdoesn't hurt and that a cyst or aboil would hurt and I'd been tearingaway at it with my nail, hopingI'd feel the pain.

'But there was no pain at all.

Awareness: Horsfield hopes his diagnosis will prompt more men taking cancer tests

'So, one week after feeling what Ihoped was a boil, I lay on the bed inthe BUPA hospital at Little Aston,underpants around my ankles andI've never been so nervous.

'The consultant came in and wasstraight with me. He said, 'If thewaves bounce off it, then it's cancer,if they don't it's not''.

'All I could see on the screen wasthese little light rays pinging backoff my testicle. It was cancer.

'My head started spinning. Ilooked at my missus. She burstinto tears. I held back, but I had alittle cry in the car afterwards.

'The first thing that went throughmy mind was, 'What have I donewrong?"

'Whoever I've met in life,I've tried to help. I've not turnedanyone over intentionally. I'vealways played hard, any centre halfwill tell you that. Most of my good friends KitSymons, Chris Morgan, Chris Lucketti well, I've had some right battleswith them.

'We'll smash lumpsout of each other. And then go for apint afterwards. It's the way it is.'I rang my mum, Christine, andsaid, 'I've got cancer''.

Looking up: Horsfield appears to be over the worst

'It was aFriday morning. I knew it would become publicknowledge eventually so I had totell the kids, Chloe and Leah, mygirls. That's the hardest thing I'vehad to do. They both startedcrying.

'Even when I become amanager and have to tell someonethey are released, it will be a pieceof cake compared to that. At that point, I didn't know anythingabout cancer. You don't,really, until the illness begins to affect you or someone close.

'I'ddone events at the various clubs I'dbeen involved with Birmingham,Sheffield United, West Bromwich, Fulham. But if you aren't affected,you don't look closely into it.

'After telling my kids, I was at mymum's house. I just sat, talked,cried and got drunk.

'Off my face.Trying to numb the pain. Atthat point, you see, I didn'tknow how far it had spread.

'I could have been likeJohn Hartson and it couldhave spread everywhere. By the time Sunday nightcame around, I had gotover the pain. I remembersaying to the adultsin the room, '**** it.

'Let's get it out of mybody. I'll beat this.'

'A few days laterthe news got out. Ihad phoned up a fewof my pals, MattUpson, Richard Chaplowand the rest of them.They were flabbergasted.Do you knowwhat the first thingthey did was?

'They allchecked themselves. I had the operationfive days later. Theytook my testicle out.They asked mewhether I wanted aprosthetic one.

'I said,'What for? I'm not inporn films. Let's gowith the one, I've donemy bit for the populationboom.'

'You then have to wait forseven days. I had theoperation done by aProfessor Cullen.

'Hisassistant was a mad keenBirmingham fanand he told me the good news thatI didn't need chemo, that theythought they had it early enough. Ished a few tears.'

When every footballing wannabelooks at Horsfield, they want to seethemselves.He was passed over as a kid,worked on a Black Country buildingsite by day and hot-footed it totraining at Halifax by night.

Strong as a Horse: Horsfield enjoyed goal-laden spells at Birmingham, West Brom and Fulham

Hegot his break and made the mostof it.Eventually, he got to the PremierLeague with BirminghamCity. When it was timeto leave, Steve Brucecalled it 'the most difficultmanagerial decisionI've ever made'.

Hewas loved at WestBromwich, too, wherehe scored the goalthat ensured theirsurvival on the dayof the 'greatescape' in 2005.

When Birminghamfans learnedhe had scored that goal,they struck up a chorusof:

'Feed the Horse and hewill score' even thoughthey were watching ahome game against Arsenal.

The fact he is seen asone of the people bringshome the severity of the disease.

'When news broke, there was a15-year-old lad in Lincoln who readwhat had happened to me,' he said.

'He checked himself, found a lumpand told his mum. They had it checked and it wascancer. His mum wrote to tell me,basically, that she thought hewould have been too embarrassedto say something otherwise and tothank me for saving his life.

'Thatletter is by my bedside. It makesme feel so humble. Then there were the reactions ofpeople I'd never met.

'Millwall's NeilHarris rang me straightaway. I'dnever spoken to him but I knewwhat had happened to him. He hadone bout of radiotherapy. He's donereally well.

'Jason Cundy, Matt Duke, whohad been at Hull, loads of differentpeople rang. One of the interestingthings was that it affects people indifferent ways. My reaction was toget the testicle removed.

Horsing around: Horsfield and his former Birmingham team mate Andrew Johnson

'Neil Harristold me that he was embarrassedwhen he did that. It was nice toexchange views. Steve Bruce got in touch. Hesaid, 'Anything you want, name it''.

'So I asked him for his bank accountdetails and a five-year contract. Ididn't get either.

'I tried to get John Hartson'snumber. I think he waited after discoveringhis lump, which surprisedme, given the character he was. So many people get it now.

'Onein three people get cancer. I'm gladit's me, if those are the averagesand not my missus or the kids.

'There is a lad here at Port Vale,the groundsman's assistant. Hewas playing five-a-side. The ball hithim in the midriff. His bits swelledup and wouldn't go down.

'Threeweeks later, they found he hadtesticular cancer. He had a coupleof bouts of radiotherapy and he'son the mend. It can affect anyone,at any time.'

There is an uplifting ending.Horsfield, 36 next month, ischecked every three months and,so far, it appears that they caught itjust in time.

'It's dreadful, horrible and everyoneknows it,' he said.

'I was walkingaround Asda an hour after havingbeen released from hospital and thislad in a Villa shirt came up to me. Ieyed him a bit warily, having playedfor Birmingham and West Bromwich.

Stricken: Neil Harris and John Hartson are also battling testicular cancer

'He asked me how I was doing andwhen I said that I'd had the operation,he said he hoped I was OK.

'He walked about five yards, thenturned around and said, 'You haveno idea how difficult it was for meto say that."

'You see, the diseasecrosses boundaries, colour, race,age. It doesn't matter.

'If you're a bloke you must check.I check the one I've got left. It'slonely, so I have to make sure it'slooked after!

'Tina got pregnant at the end ofthe month I had the operation. Itwon't affect your chances of havingkids. Obviously, it just doubles thepower of the one you have left.

'Wehave a three-month old now, calledLexie. She is cherished.'

This story has a happy endingsimply because of a hot bath andcommon sense.

As Horsfield wouldno doubt say: 'Gentlemen, youhave been warned.'

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Source: Daily_Mail