In the latest edition of HQ magazine, Jimmy Jeggo opened up about his battle with cancer as a teenager.
I was 15 going on 16 and I was just living a normal life going to school and enjoying my football. Everything was going well for me and heading in the right direction.
I started to get these horrific pains in my shoulder. The pain would stop me sleeping for like three days and then just disappear. I went to see heaps of different doctors, and no-one could work out what was going on. I was just having to plough through it.
I went away with Australia’s Under-17s on a tour in Germany and the Netherlands and I started getting the same pain in my hip; no-one knew again what was going on. When we came back to Australia the appointments with doctors started to get more intense; it was from that point when we started to realise that this wasn’t going to be straight-forward and something more serious was going on.
As we got closer to finding out what it was, I spent a lot of time in the hospital and in and out of the cancer ward and you could tell the outcome wouldn’t be positive.
Before I was diagnosed with Leukemia, they thought it might have been bone cancer. Because I was young, I lent a lot on my parents. Looking back, I think you subconsciously cut out a lot of thoughts that were going on, but I think being that age probably helped me deal with it because I was naïve, almost felt invincible and didn’t really think into things as much as I do now.
I do remember, around the time when we were finding out what it was, I was at school, and I had the pain in my shoulder. I was doing an exam and I walked out of it mentally in not a great place thinking ‘bloody hell, my life could get thrown in a completely different direction’. There was a lot of worrying, of course, but I just wanted to know what it was. I was sick of the pain.
My parents were unbelievable; my mum was more emotional, and it was tough for her, but they both made sure they sheltered me from what they were feeling and my dad was very positive and kept things moving.
I was diagnosed with Leukemia, but thankfully it wasn’t the worst-case scenario, something like bone cancer, could’ve had a lot worse long term effects for me. After the diagnosis, I didn’t get caught up in the what ifs, it was just like right I’ve got to get on with the Chemo now.
I looked at the Chemo course like it was a long-term injury from football, I know it might sound silly, but I think that was my naïve, innocent way of looking at it. Luckily enough the cancer reacted well to the treatment straight away, so I knew it was moving in the right direction.
The Chemo was rough though. You had 10 day to two week blocks, and the Chemo knocked you for six. I lost a ridiculous amount of weight, then I had to wait in hospital for like a week after because it destroyed my immune system. They couldn’t let you out and you were constantly sick. You had a week in-between to recover, but then you’d go back in and get wiped out again. The periods in the hospital were the hardest parts. I was lucky though because I had my mates, football coaches, my parents all come in and visit, so my support network was really, really good.
There was a huge relief and excitement when the treatment had worked because it meant I could get on with normality. The toughest point I had was probably three or four months later though. I got back to looking and feeling normal, but I realised how far I’d fallen behind in terms of football and school. I felt miles behind.
In saying that, I think a big positive to come out of it is that it taught me about resilience and having a positive outlook at a very young age. I was 16/17 coming out of it and I was trying to work out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to play football, so falling behind everyone else, it made me determined to reach the standard they were at.
I became almost obsessed with my training, doing silly stuff and having a silly routine of having to do a certain number of sit-ups or press-ups a day, because I was looking at everyone who went ahead of me and thought that’s where I could be and want to be.
It made me realise that you don’t often realise how strong you are and how much you can deal with until you’re put into this type of situation. If someone had said to me this is going to happen to you, this is what you are going to have to go through and this is where you’ll be after, I’d have been like ‘not a chance’. 100% going through that at a young age helped me in later life with dealing and coping with the things that life throws at you.
It wasn’t just tough on me. It was tough on my parents and my brother. During that time my parents were solely focused on me and trying to help me get better, so my brother had to make a number of sacrifices. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than watching your son, daughter, brother or sister going through it and am so grateful to them for how they helped me through it all.
It’s makes it even more special now that I’ve been able to share my football career with them and they have been able to see me doing something that I love.
This is part of my story. I was lucky and want to use it to help make a difference. I’ve done a lot of work in Australia and Austria with charities and want to give children something to look forward too. When you’ve been through it, you realise how much of a difference the smallest thing can make; that’s how I got through some days.
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