Bob Champion, 71, had sporting glory in his sights when suddenly his professional career as a Jockey came to a halt. In July 1979 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His prospects did not look good. In an interview with The Guardian, he spoke about this difficult time.
It was eight months to live
He said: “They gave me six to eight months to live. If I’d had the cancer 18 months before there’d have been no cure anyway, so I’d have been a goner.”
“It was eight months to live – or a 35-40 per cent chance of living, with the treatment. The odds weren’t particularly good. I didn’t want to die.”
As the NHS explained, cancer of the testicle is one of the less common cancers, and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age.
Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are the three main treatments for testicular cancer.
A person’s recommended treatment plan will depend on:
- The type of testicular cancer you have – whether it’s a seminoma or a non-seminoma. Seminoma is a slow-growing form of testicular cancer and nonseminoma’s tend to grow more quickly.
- The stage of a person’s testicular cancer
“The first treatment option for all cases of testicular cancer, whatever the stage, is to surgically remove the affected testicle (an orchidectomy),” noted the NHS.
Luckily, in spite of his odds, Bob proved responsive to the form of chemotherapy he was given at the time.
Although the treatment regimen proved gruelling, he said.
“But I didn’t realise until they started pumping the stuff in how toxic it was. Jesus, I felt so ill after two days. It was horrendous treatment.
“Some days you’d rather be dead. I got septicaemia half-way through the treatment. You think you’re drifting away and feel relief.
“Then they change your blood, get you up and you start the whole thing all over again.”
He added: “The chemo was very barbaric in those days and it did affect my lungs.”
Despite being in recovery, Bob went on to achieve sporting glory a couple of years later. The former jockey ended up winning the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti.
His victory in the face of adversity was heralded as a sporting triumph, earning him that year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award.
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