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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Beating the odds
Millwall's Neil Harris shows his poise on the ball
Millwall's Neil Harris shows his poise on the ball
BBC Sport Online's Mark Fleming looks at sportsmen who have beaten cancer and returned to their sport even stronger.

Neil Harris bagged 28 goals in Millwall's race for the Division Two title last season and caught the eye of a number of Premiership clubs.

The 23-year-old was billed as one of the hottest prospects in football and there seemed no limit to what he could achieve in south London and beyond.

But last week he was told that he had testicular cancer.

Harris has undergone surgery and is awaiting the results of further tests.

His club say it is unlikely that he will play next season as he takes on his most difficult opponent.

Bobby Moore lifts the World Cup
Bobby Moore lifts the World Cup

But the devastating blow need not curtail the promising striker's career and the chances are that he will come back stronger, wiser and fitter once the battle has been won.

He need only look at Celtic's Alan Stubbs, who has suffered and recovered from the same condition, twice.

After his second illness, the central defender was on the bench for the Glasgow giants at last month's Scottish Cup final on May 26.

He had earlier returned for Celtic in their 5-2 demolition of Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League at Easter Road on May 6.

Stubbs even scored the club's fourth goal in the tie but he was not in the side for sympathy's sake.

His manager, Martin O'Neill, said: "His chance came about really because of injuries.

"I said to him that he would play between now and the end of the season but he didn't want his (league) winners' medal through sympathy.


Let's get started. Let's kill this stuff
Lance Armstrong on being told he had cancer

"Not many of us have had to go through some of the things that have happened to him and to go back out there on the field of play after what he's gone through was magnificent."

Fellow footballer Jason Cundy, now 31, believed he was suffering from a groin injury while at Ipswich Town.

It turned out to be testicular cancer.

An operation to remove a testicle and a course of radiation therapy cured the problem and he resumed his career.

Cycling's Lance Armstrong's fight and victory over the disease is well documented.

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. Doctors told him he had a 50% chance of survival, let alone return to race in one of the world's toughest sports.

Armstrong's high level of physical fitness helped him recover and he was back in the saddle 10 days after surgery.

Lance Armstrong in control
Lance Armstrong in control

"When I was told I put my head down on the doctor's desk and thought about it for a couple of minutes. But there was no point denying it, so I looked up and said: 'Let's get started. Let's kill this stuff'," said Armstrong.

Armstrong went on to win the Tour de France in successive years, 1999 and 2000.

One of the best kept secrets in football was that Bobby Moore suffered from testicular cancer in 1964. He received treatment and two years later led England to victory in the World Cup final.

Steve Scott, the prolific sub-four minute miler, was diagnosed with the illness in 1994. An operation and chemotherapy ensured he recovered to become one of the top veteran runners in the United States.

Bob Champion was one of Britain's top jump jockeys when, in 1979, he discovered he had cancer and was given only months to live.

Determination

His illness went into remission after extensive chemotherapy, and Champion then went on to record his most memorable racing triumph, riding Aldaniti to victory in the 1981 Grand National.

Former Olympic and triple World 110m hurdles champion Ludmila Engquist underwent surgery for breast cancer just months before the 1999 World Athletics Championships in Seville.

Her illness was announced to the world by the Swedish Olympic Committee who, in a statement, said: "Naturally, Ludmila will not compete this season."

But they underestimated the determination of the former Russian athlete, who became a Swedish citizen just ahead of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

She managed to regain her fitness in time to mount a medal challenge in Spain, and in the final took bronze behind America's Gail Devers and runner-up Glory Alozie, of Nigeria.


Millwall's Neil HarrisCancer battle
Millwall striker Neil Harris fights against illness
See also:

31 Mar 01 |  Grand National
Aintree legend bounces back
29 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Lance looks great
Links to more Football stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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