The observant regular readers of Gunners Town may have noticed that Andrea’s popular Clock End Italia Column has been scarce of late. He’s back…..
Good day Gooners!
It’s been a long time since my last appearance on Gunners Town; it was September, 28th and we were about to play Basel at the Emirates Stadium, for the occasion I replaced Alex in writing the preview for the game.
I didn’t take any time off, my inspiration didn’t vanish and my passion for the Arsenal didn’t move from the usual visceral/illogical/irrational levels.
Simply, I had to fight cancer.
It’s an awkward thing to read on a football blog and perhaps you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable now but I want to reassure you, I’m not seeking attention or compassion – I’m here to give you some advices you really should take.
I’m 33 years old, I don’t carry any chronic disease or genetic pathology, I am in good health and acceptable shape (although my body looks like a “U” more than a “V”) hence I am as far as possible from the “at risk” category.
Yet, it happened.
I got cancer.
It’s as scary as it comes but there’s also a good spin: it brings out of you resources that you didn’t know you had.
Working for ‘Accuray’ gave me access to a lot of publications, researches, studies and information about cancer and I was pleased to see that the perception of it is globally shifting to “death sentence” to “shitty disease but curable” – and that’s the first good news I want to share with you.
Treatments are sometimes hard, you might go through some bad spells but you win the battle, in the end.
All you need to do is find a specialist you trust, follow her/his judgment and stick to the treatment plan.
I felt like a man on a mission, entirely focused on responding to this subtle menace and keep the morale as high as possible.
For that, I could count on the support of the wonderful woman by my side, someone whose love went as far as removing from my pillow the hair I was losing, so that I didn’t risk getting depressed by the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and a two months-old boy who kept me going all day and rewarded me with plenty of smiles.
Support from family and friends is vital to keep the morale sky-high and avoid falling into a self-commiseration spiral, so don’t hide from people who love you and make the most of every word, hug and gesture people address to you.
Some will say that not all cancers are curable and sometimes life’s unfair and doesn’t give you a real opportunity to fight but – here comes the second good news – today we know how to avoid going to the “it’s too late” case.
Make sure you know your body, its reactions, its normal functioning, listen to it, observe any change and GO GET CHECKED if anything looks or sounds different.
Seriously, do not underestimate any little detail – it will save your life.
GO GET CHECKED.
Regularly or in case you notice anything unusual.
PLEASE GO AND GET IT CHECKED.
I told myself that the little swelling on my cheek wasn’t a big deal, I told myself that “it will go” and risked to spend my life with half of my face paralysed.
I’m almost finished with cancer and advice but before that, there’s a very last episode I would like to share with you, something that will help the transaction to football: the day I was told I had cancer and the following ones.
It was a Friday, I remember receiving a phone call from the doctor and suddenly I thought my life was going to end. (Yes, he broke the news over the phone)
I was at work, he called and said “Well sir, I have some bad news. You have a parotid cancer, I booked a full-body scan for you on Tuesday to see which other organs (not IF, WHICH other organs!) are impacted. I’m off on holidays but do you need sleeping pills for tonight?”
I swear, this is the way he told me I had cancer – The reason why he’s not my doctor anymore.
Those four days have been the longest of my life and surely the most difficult: I had to tell my wife about the horrible news, I had to wait four days to have the scan done and I couldn’t stop thinking that I might not see my boy grow-up and basically lose everything.
Those moments taught me that the only thing that matters is the present and also the importance of living every day fully, because every minute gone won’t come back. I know it sounds rhetorical but it’s true, Arsène Wenger explained it clearly in one of the most recent interviews: “the past brings regrets, the future incertitude. The only way is the present.”
That’s the final advice I have for you, enjoy the moment and enjoy the journey.
I have plenty of time to think these days and this “enjoy the moment” concept really struck me, mainly because of the wide variety of fields it applies to, including football and the Arsenal.
I started thinking about how many football fans do not enjoy the journey at all but only focus on the result at the final whistle? It’s entirely natural to feel disappointed or let down by your football team, however reducing everything that football means to the final score is a mistake.
While reading Amy Lawrence’s “Invincible”, I imagined what could have happened on Twitter if Arsenal lost any of the four final league games of the season 2003/2004, after being crowned champions at White Hart Lane.
I could see the tweets calling that team “wankers”, “bottlers”, “losers” and many other sweet names, it genuinely made me feel sick.
Of course I am more than proud of that unbelievable achievement and the resilience shown by the team to go all the way, however I cannot help asking myself one question:
Would a hypothetical, single loss take away anything from that season?
We were producing the most exciting, breath-taking football that the Premier League ever witnessed, we were gracing every field with speed, technique and flair and – cherry on the cake – we clinched the title at our rivals’ ground.
Could one single loss, in a meaningless game with nothing at stake, really ruin all that?
My answer is no, because going a full season unbeaten should never be among the parameters to judge whether a season has been successful or not; you cannot expect your team to go all 38 games without a loss, even if you go into the 34th, 35th or 36th match with zero defeat.
You cannot expect to win the league or the Champions League, you cannot expect to record easy wins against inferior teams, you cannot expect everything to go as…expected.
Remember those who expected a win against Ipswich Town, Wrexham or Birmingham? They had every right to expect a win but ended up disappointed, still.
Actually, you cannot expect anything in football – you’ll end up disappointed, at some point.
It’s the beauty of this game, what makes it different from any other sport in terms of emotions and unpredictability.
Enjoy the journey, instead.