Novice footballer Rob McPherson has a secret.
It is not his sexuality; he got here out simply earlier than becoming a member of Village Manchester FC – a homosexual and inclusive membership – in 2007.
His ‘secret’ got here to gentle due to what he describes as his “gung-ho” strategy to soccer…
Rob is enjoying in his final sport of the 2017-18 season for Village Manchester reserves. He jumps into an aerial problem everybody else can see he’s going to lose. Certain sufficient, he comes off second finest, leaving the sector with blood pouring from his nostril.
However his team-mates are extra involved about his abdomen. It’s only when he lifts his shirt to wipe away the blood that it turns into clear why.
Rob is carrying a big protecting belt, overlaying a small lump on his abdomen. He’s enjoying regardless of having a stoma. He has bowel most cancers.
Right here, the 32-year-old from Northern Eire tells BBC Sport about life with a stoma, how his team-mates helped him address having most cancers, and why he’s decided to maintain enjoying regardless of having chemotherapy.
Life with a stoma
“Inside 14 hours of going into hospital, I used to be on the working desk. I puzzled what would’ve occurred if I would left it longer.”
Rob was rushed to hospital final November after feeling “capturing pains” in his abdomen. He had an operation – a colostomy – after a blockage was found.
He now has a stoma – a gap made by bringing a part of the bowel to the floor of the stomach, permitting meals waste to go out of the physique right into a bag.
“I began vomiting and my abdomen was getting bigger,” he mentioned. “Then I used to be rushed into hospital and the subsequent morning I wanted an operation. It was solely then that it hit residence how critical it was.
“The primary few days with a stoma are bizarre. You are considering, ‘what the hell’s this?’ I did not need to have a look at it. At first, the stoma nurses empty the bag and clear the stoma, however you then get intrigued and begin doing all of it your self.
“It solely provides two or three minutes to my morning routine, and after I go to work or the pub I all the time have to verify I’ve bought provides with me, in case the bag bursts or I would like to vary it.
“And also you get used to telling everybody about your bowel actions and different stuff I by no means thought I would discuss. It sort of makes no topic taboo.”
New additions to the kitbag
Two days earlier than Christmas, Rob was advised the blockage was bowel most cancers. In January, he began 5 weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to shrink the tumour earlier than it will be eliminated.
Earlier than surgical procedure, or ‘prehabilitation’, sufferers are inspired to get as match as their circumstances enable. The fitter you might be, the simpler it’s to return via therapy and get well from surgical procedure.
In April, after 4 months away from soccer, Rob returned – with a protecting belt and cup over his stoma.
“The primary time I put it on I did it discreetly, within the nook of the altering room, so my team-mates would not see,” added Rob, who’s from Coleraine. “I am positive they nonetheless did, however they did not say something.
“I used to be nervous about what would occur on the pitch due to the best way I play soccer. I suppose I am like [former Liverpool and England defender] Jamie Carragher – I am fairly gung-ho, I slide into tackles, go in for headers and block pictures with no matter I can.
“I went into tackles a bit in another way in order that I would land on the opposite facet of my physique and, as soon as I made that first sliding deal with, loads of that fear disappeared.
“The one time I used to be nervous was after I went for a header and the opposing participant landed on me. However I felt my stoma, adjusted my belt, and it was superb.”
‘Residing with and past most cancers’
“We inform sufferers: ‘You are still you, it is only a barely totally different manner of your physique functioning.'”
Rob had his tumour eliminated on 2 July, giving him 5 weeks to get well in time for final month’s Homosexual Video games in Paris.
Deborah Hitchen, a colorectal medical nurse specialist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, helps sufferers similar to Rob “living with and beyond cancer”, serving to them realise life would not finish at prognosis.
“We would like folks to get again to a ‘regular life’ – no matter is ‘regular’ for them and no matter they get pleasure from doing,” she mentioned. “In Robert’s case, that is soccer, so we attempt to tie in therapy and working dates round that, specifically the event in Paris.
“It was on the cusp of being a bit early, however Robert needed to be there along with his group. Psychologically, it will have been good for him, and medically he was superb to play. There was no manner he may play a full match so we mentioned: ‘It is as much as you.'”
Rob, who has lived in Manchester since going to school there in 2004, performed not less than 15 minutes in every of the group’s six video games.
“It’s uncommon for somebody to play soccer with a stoma so it is good that Robert has felt assured sufficient to try this,” Deborah added.
“It is primarily all the way down to a insecurity with the home equipment, however when you get used to that there is not rather a lot you’ll be able to’t do – you’ll be able to play soccer, you’ll be able to go swimming, you’ll be able to go mountain climbing.”
Having been voted participant of the 12 months in earlier seasons, Rob was named VMFC’s clubman of the 12 months this summer time, and have become their new chairman. His team-mates additionally raised greater than £5,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Though his tumour has now been eliminated, Rob has agreed to extra chemotherapy to fight any microscopic most cancers cells which will stay.
However he’s nonetheless enjoying – the reserves kicked off their season final Sunday – and he’s already planning subsequent summer time’s abroad journey, to Rome for the EuroGames.
“Becoming a member of Village Manchester is the most effective resolution I’ve made since coming over right here,” mentioned Rob.
“The group has been nice, and never simply due to the speech and applause on the end-of-season get together. The fundraiser wasn’t for me, they simply needed to do one thing for charity, however it confirmed they care and that some sort of good may come out of all this.
“I’ve by no means been nervous about mentioning my scenario and so they do not deal with me any in another way. You get a bit bored of claiming how you are feeling, and other people asking the identical questions, so once they visited me in hospital it was good to speak about one thing like soccer to take my thoughts off issues.
“It additionally confirmed that it would not matter what sickness you’ve got bought – or whether or not you are homosexual, straight or no matter. My team-mates nonetheless recognize my opinion as a participant and now the chairman.”