Awareness

"June 9th! Just you wait for June 9th" the famous words I constantly heard from Derek. June 9th my best friend Derek Robson (former Cascade FC coach and now head coach at Eastside FC) organized a surprise charity game to raise awareness for testicular cancer. He rounded up my beloved 2002 boys' team, the team that I once took to State cup final. A game that ended with a heart-breaking own goal scored in extra time followed by the full-time whistle; golden goal! 11 boys simultaneously dropped to the ground and burst into tears. Although I still lay awake at night and think about what I would have done differently that day, it still is one of my proudest coaching moments. So, for Derek to bring that team back together for me was very special. And to keep it as a surprise, well even better.

June 9th, 2019 Derek organized a charity game where the 2002 Cascade boys came out and played together, they played a friendly scrimmage vs his 2003 Eastside FC ECNL team. Go figure, the state cup champions needed a tune up game before heading off to regionals next week, you didn't think Derek was going to do something completely selflessly did you? However, it was amazing having those boys back together even if it did mean I had to take a 4-0 pumping from Eastside.

On top of this spectacular event, Derek wanted to use this opportunity to raise awareness for testicular cancer. This is something we had discussed in the past and he knew it was important to me. His goal was to cheer me up post treatment and he was successful, thank you Derek.

June 9th turned out to be a brilliant day; 1) I was surprised. 2) The players seem to enjoy being back together, the families loved seeing them all play together again. And 3) we got people talking about testicular cancer. I'm so grateful for this day Derek organize for me but I am also hoping to raise awareness even more. So, to do so I want to share my personal experience with cancer. Please read my story below.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was diagnosed then but this is something I ignored for a while. Maybe two years. In late 2011 I found a lump and then forgot about it. It wasn't until March 2012, when I felt it again that made me question if something was wrong. I remember it was March because I had just arrived back in the states to start my second 9 months coaching for UK Elite soccer. I ignored it not because I was embarrassed or that I feared what it could be but because I convinced myself "I'm young so it's probably nothing". I returned to the UK that December and told my mum what was going on. By this time it was painful, and the lump had done quite a lot of growing. After seeing the doctor, he had told me he was pretty sure it was a cyst, but we will book you in for an ultrasound, which I wouldn't have attended unless my mother forced me. I was content after hearing "I'm pretty sure it's a cyst".

I still remember the day of the ultrasound so clearly. When nurse had told me she wanted me to have someone else look at the images, I thought nothing of it. They called me back in and from there it was the worst feeling I had ever had. Every moment until that point I was brushing everything off, telling myself "this is nothing, you are going to be fine". When I got called back in, the atmosphere had completely changed, and they told me to sit down. I can still clearly hear what she had said, "This is not what we first thought." From there I felt sick to the stomach, my heart began to race, and I had no idea what she said after that apart from "it's going to be surgery".

Later that month I had a successful operation and was put into remission. From there I was to attend annual CT Scans making sure nothing spread. In 2017 I had my two-year annual checkup, with images showing a "spot" which the doctor said, "I don't think it's cancer but let's keep an eye on it". Now I've heard that and, again, I've told myself "this is nothing, you've heard the doctor he doesn't even think it's cancer, I'm fine I don't need to go back". You're probably reading this thinking, is he for real? Why on earth after what happened before would he not just go back? Two reasons: One, I thought I was invincible because I'm young. And two, I didn't want to pay the bills. I know. That's the most ridiculous thought process, right? But to tell the truth I was worried about money. I had just moved to America and begun the rat race, and I didn't want to keep getting hospital bills, so I didn't go back. January 2019, I told a cascade parent this story and she forced me to call the hospital immediately. And I'm glad she did because ultimately this saved my life. The "spot" they had found had become clearer in my next set of CT scans and I was referred to a biopsy for further testing.

I was told what day I would receive the call with the results from the biopsy. I waited by the phone all day. The call came at 4.47pm, 3 minutes before I started coaching a masterclass on long balls over the top with my 2010 B team. As soon as the phone rang, I just knew. My heart began to race, this feeling was all too familiar, again the entire conversation was a complete blur apart from one line "Your cancer has returned".

In April 2019 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, with a cancerous mass in the lymph node in my abdomen. I went through 20 sessions, every day, of radiation therapy. On July 9th, I will have a follow up CT Scan which doctors feel confident that the tumor has been eliminated.

My message to young athletes is if you find something or you feel something isn't right, speak up, tell your parents, go see a doctor. We have no idea what is going on, google search will not give you the answers. I wasn't embarrassed. I wasn't scared. I thought I was invincible because of my age. We are not! And money should not come into this thought process, as our health is more valuable than any bill. I left something in my body too long, twice. I have been let off, twice. And for that, I will never miss an appointment again.

George Taylor