Suddenly, in June 2020, I noticed a small lump above the collarbone. She didn’t give it more importance because it didn’t hurt, to the point where she thought she was sore because she did too many push-ups, as she worried because Rebecca Stott (Papamoa, New Zealand, 30) was about to get fit in her first season in the Women’s Premier League with Brighton. He did some tests, but the results were inconclusive, which is why he continued playing soccer, his great passion since he learned to stand. But it was complicated.
The tumor grew, began to bother him, and after several weeks of waiting, because it was in epidemic times, the biopsy was clear: He had lymphoma. By no means did he know. She decided to travel from London to Melbourne with two friends, and she is still in the hotel due to the quarantine. The report came to her: Hodgkin lymphoma. “I shed a few tears, but I’ve always been so positive, and knowing it was cancer with a good prognosis, I decided to fight,” she explains. A battle they won over time, though it wasn’t easy, and that now deserves to return to lead New Zealand’s defense in the World Cup, winning the opening match against Norway and now rivals the Philippines.
Deciding to make his fight public, Stott created a blog (beatitbystotty.comHe narrated in it his day to day and still writes about it. In it, through the idea of finding answers and offering them to others in the same situation, he explains his reality, the hangovers of invasive chemotherapy, and its side effects such as nausea, mouth sores, loss of muscle mass, and mental and emotional challenges. “It was such a relief to share what was going on. It’s important to show that in difficult times, you can be vulnerable, but also that you can share your deepest thoughts,” he says. Although there were very bad moments to which he responded with courage and unbreakable will.
It turned out that as the sessions went on, his energy waned by leaps and bounds, reaching a point where it was scary for him to even take a simple walk. This was a luxury that could not be allowed because during treatment, medical appointments, requirements and documents multiplied. At first I wasn’t organized at all, trying to carry everything with me in a small bag. I soon realized that I would be more comfortable and relaxed if I had everything in its place, so I found myself a suitcase that fit, with different compartments—a woolen hat, a water bottle, a bag of wheatgrass, skincare products…—and it made all the difference,” she says. So it occurred to him to make the bags. Stottie beat himdistributed free of charge to cancer patients.
In the process, the football community showed him their love, thousands of messages that made him stronger. “I didn’t expect my story to have such an impact,” he admits. “But I felt like the world football family.” This prompted him to turn to others. Use the blog to raise money for The best shave in the world in Melbourne – as a sign of support for other cancer patients – and was awarded nearly €25,000. Also, after a friendly match the previous year between Australia and New Zealand, he accepted the invitation of his rival but friend Ivy Luik to shave his head on the lawn, because it was a promise if he raised €23,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation, which studies brain cancer, which afflicts his little brother.
By then, Stott had already won his fight. Specifically, the good news came, after four rounds of chemotherapy sessions, on the day New Zealand faced Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. So 294 days after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, he’s putting his shoes back on. He did it with Bulleen Lions, in the Australian Second Division – “that day I couldn’t get the smile off my face,” he says – and then at Melbourne City before returning to Brighton again, although his career had already run through the German, Norwegian and North American leagues. Now, he’s capped 91 times with four goals to his credit, the World Cup running him down.
“We want to go beyond the group stage, but I think what’s really important is to inspire the next generation of boys and girls to play football, and just experience it,” says Stott. Few examples are as good as yours.
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