Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hartson would 'turn back clock'


Footballer John Hartson spoke candidly about his experience with testicular cancer

Former football star John Hartson is hoping to prevent others making the same mistake as him by not checking out early warning signs of cancer.

The retired striker, who is recovering from testicular cancer, said he wished he could turn the clock back four years and act as soon as he found a lump.

Hartson, 34, was admitted to hospital for surgery and chemotherapy in August.

The former Arsenal, Celtic and Wales player plans to raise awareness of the illness and the need to act early.

You're never too busy are you - there's no excuses, I should have gone and had it checked out

John Hartson

Hartson's cancer spread to his brain and lungs, and at one stage he was given a "50-50 chance" of surviving.

He told BBC Wales: "I wish I could turn the clock back four years. From the first minute I felt a lump in my testicle I would be in the doctors.

"You're never too busy are you - there's no excuses, I should have gone and had it checked out.

"I wouldn't have gone through all the rigmarole I've gone through possibly, the operations and everything else.

"I think I'd have had it nipped in the bud, avoided lots of chemo and operations."

He wants to use his public profile to highlight the need for self-checking.

He explained: "I played football, I was in the limelight for a while. I think people will listen if I say, go and get it checked out.

"I'm going to try and raise awareness to young men around the country, not just older men, younger men in their teens. I think it applies to people in their 20s, early 30s.

John Hartson
Hartson scored 89 goals for Celtic during his five seasons at the club

"If somebody had really drummed it into me... had come to Celtic or West Brom or wherever I was playing and given a talk about raising awareness about checking your testicles, I would have gone that afternoon.

"I wouldn't have left it four years."

He added: "I speak to guys on the street. People come up to me and say 'I went and got myself checked out last week on the back of watching your programme'.

"That's nice to hear. If you can save people's lives through it, then it's obviously worthwhile."

Hartson hopes to get back into football once his treatment is complete - he said he was "not home and dry yet" - and has completed all the necessary coaching badges to enable him to resume his career once he is well enough.

He said the hardest thing during his treatment were the levels of tiredness he experienced, which as a very fit man he found it difficult to deal with.

"I was bed-ridden for five-and-a-half weeks... so I completely lost all my strength," he said.

"It does make you appreciate life a little bit more, time with the kids and everything else.

"But there's still a long way to go and I'm hoping I'm going to be one of the lucky ones. I'm going to keep on fighting."

On a personal front, he and his partner Sarah McManus are expecting their second child, and the couple are making plans to marry.

He already has two other children from a previous relationship.

Cancer patients

Hartson was speaking at the launch of a mobile unit in Carmarthenshire run by the cancer charity Tenovus.

The unit, which costs £300,000 a year to run, aims to serve cancer patients in the hardest to reach areas who need to access care, treatment and support.

It will initially be based at Parc Y Scarlets fortnightly and will them move to Trostre Park from January.

Tenovus' mobile support unit is being brought to Carmarthenshire in partnership with Hywel Dda Trust and CISS (Cancer Information and Support Services).

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