Last July, Dylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer after a random drug test while representing Australia at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
After undergoing chemotherapy and major surgery, the 18-year-old striker is back in training at Chadwell Heath and looking forward to pulling on his boots again next Monday.
Speaking to the matchday programme, the rising star discusses the biggest fight of his life and thanks everyone connected with West Ham United for helping him through it.
So Dylan, two-and-a-half months after your surgery, how are things health-wise?
DT – I haven’t got the all-clear yet. It’s a time-line thing at the moment. I had a blood test the other day and that was my third since my operation. I need to get ten all-clears and that will officially tell me that I am clear of the disease. The doctors have told me that if I am likely to recur, it will be in the first year, and if I don’t then I should be cured for life. I’ve got another eight or so blood tests and other CT scans to go then hopefully I’ll get the all-clear.
How do you look back on the events of the previous eight months?
DT – Mentally it is frustrating because I still ask myself why it happened. Nobody knows why and I don’t think anybody will ever be able to tell me why it happened. It’s just the frustration of not being able to train fully and play games, of going from such an active lifestyle to relying on other people to do things for me. It wasn’t the best experience, but nevertheless it is something that I have gotten through.
You have been back at Chadwell Heath for a few weeks now working on your fitness. How helpful has that been with regard to getting things back to normal, physically and mentally?
DT – It’s getting back to normal, especially compared to what I’ve had recently. Seeing my mates and all the players and staff every day has been great. Whether or not I’m playing, it certainly beats sitting at home or lying in a hospital bed having cords linked up to me pumping poison through me. When I first came back, everybody was asking me ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Are you all right?’ but now it’s much more normal conversations. People still ask me how I’m getting on and how I’m feeling and it’s great to know that people care.
How helpful was the support you received from both inside and outside the club in aiding your recovery?
DT – Obviously being on the bench in the Premier League raised my profile at the club and people knew what was going on. When I was ill and having my treatment, I always had club staff with me and people came to visit me after my operation and stuff. It was a good feeling. I got lots of cards from the club with messages from all the players written in them.
Academy physio Jon Urwin will run the London Marathon next week
Academy physiotherapist Jon Urwin has been particularly supportive, hasn’t he?
DT – Jon has been with me every step of the way, to every scan and every meeting I’ve had, making notes and helping me along to get fit again. Jon has kept an eye on me and made sure everything has gone right. He’s a top man. Jon is running the London Marathon for the charity Children with Cancer, which is a very good cause and we’re all very proud of him for doing it. I was the first person to sponsor him! – To sponsor Jon, click here.
What is your daily routine now, then?
DT – I usually go to the gym first and do some swimming, then I’ll go on the stationary bike or the treadmill or the cross-trainer. It’s a variety. Sometimes I’ll do it all in the morning and others I’ll do some in the morning and then the others in the afternoon. Next Monday I’ll get my boots back on and do some running on the pitch, so I’m looking forward to that quite a bit!
Are you feeling more like your old self?
DT – More and more every day, yes. Obviously I lost a lot of muscle when they cut me open through my abdomen, but it’s coming back.
What would your message be to anybody reading this whose lives are currently affected by cancer?
DT – Parts of it are physical but the majority of it is mental strength. It’s all about how much you want to stick in there and beat it. You have just got to want to stay alive and if you get that through your head, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all. If you have support from your family and friends, it helps. People are thinking about you all the time so you cannot let yourself get down in the dumps.
Dylan with Sydney Hammers chairman Robert Byrne
Since you’ve been back, you’ve been involved in plenty of events – meeting Jonjo Heuerman after his Bobby Moore Fund walk, helping the Media team as a pundit and welcoming the Sydney Hammers to the Boleyn Ground – so how have you enjoyed those roles?
DT – I’d do anything for the fans, just like any player would. They come to support us each week so you have got to give something back. They take their time and spend their money on tickets to watch you play and cheer you on. You’ve got to do your bit for them, too.
Your family have been truly fantastic through all of this, haven’t they?
DT – My family have been really good to me all the way through it. My Mum spent a lot of nights in the hospital because she didn’t want to be away from me, which was really nice. I know my Dad and brother (Taylor, who is a schoolboy player within the West Ham Academy) were thinking about me all the time and my family back in Australia were quite worried about me too and I’m grateful for all their support.
Finally, can you now start dreaming of making that Boleyn Ground debut again?
DT – It’s not far away. I can see it on the horizon and I’m looking forward to it!