Beating bowel cancer together

How Adrian shows off his two-football skills to help raise money

Adrian Walsh was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1982, and has published a book about his two-footed football skills to raise funds for the charity.

In 1982 I did an extensive tour of UK football clubs, entertaining the crowds at half time, displaying my specially developed skills in kicking two footballs at the same time. I set world records that were recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

My first football juggling record was set in March 1977. I set it in Galway, keeping the two balls going for two hours and three-and-a-half minutes, during which I did a total of 12,104 repetitions. Following that there had been highly successful tours of the USA and Europe, the publication of a successful book on ball control, and widely publicised appearances in some of the most famous sporting arenas in the world.

The last two appearances of the 1982 tour were scheduled for the Luton Town against Newcastle United game and, finally the Scottish Cup Final between Rangers and Aberdeen.

The Luton exhibition was very special to me because it meant I was returning to the town where I had spent my schoolboy years, and where I had been on the club’s books for three months in the early sixties. However, just about an hour before the Luton exhibition was due to get under way, I suddenly felt very unwell — sick and nauseated.

Luton’s physio, John Sheridan, saw the state I was in and gave me a mysterious green liquid to take. Whatever it was, it seemed to do the trick. It settled my stomach sufficiently to allow me to go ahead with my exhibition at half time.

The Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park was a great and exciting occasion, as most cup finals are, with their unique atmosphere. To the skirl of Scottish pipers, I performed in the centre of the pitch.

Adding to the excitement was the presentation of the prize to the winner of the “Keepy Uppy” youth competition by the great Jock Stein. My presentation went down extremely well, and the big crowd showed their appreciation with cheers and hand clapping. Afterwards I headed back home to Galway. And then, healthwise, things began to go downhill very fast.

Following an exploratory examination by a surgeon I was admitted to Galway’s Regional Hospital for tests. As with almost everybody else at that time, cancer, to me, was something that happened to otherpeople. Whenever it was mentioned in conversation, it was referred to as “The Big C” — as if the word itself was too scary.

Four days after going into hospital, someone hurried into my room, tapped my side, and said something that I didn’t catch.

When I awoke after undergoing surgery, it was to find a long plastic bag attached to my side. I didn’t know what it was or what all this was about, and I remember asking when they would remove it.

It was then I was told that I’d have to wear this bag for life. For life! To me, the news was devastating. That wasn’t the only thing. I spent the next three weeks in the hospital, and at times the pain was so great for short periods that it was almost unbearable.

Eventually it was decided that I should travel to my parents’ home in Luton so that our children would not become too stressed by what they were confronted with. As far as I’m aware there were no colostomy nurses in Ireland at that time. By contrast, there were many colostomy nurses all over the UK.

A thing that lifted my spirits somewhat was the discovery that there were many different types of colostomy bags to choose from.

The whole cancer and surgical and recovery process was so traumatic, so full of unknowns and uncertainties, that I offered myself to be available in hospital to anyone who faced a cancer operation — to talk them through it, to encourage them, to take the fear element out of it.

It’s 37 years since I underwent cancer surgery, and I reckon I’m fitter now than I’ve ever been. Not only that, but very recently I was able to set four new dribbling world records. I’m very proud of those records, because the skills I’ve utilised and demonstrated are married to the game of football. And I want to teach them to the whole world of football.

I have written a new book on the subject, and I have decided that the profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Bowel Cancer UK. You can help this great cause by purchasing a copy of the book, and recommending it to all your friends and acquaintances.

Buy a copy of Adrian’s book, The Adrian Walsh Way, on his School of two-footed excellence Facebook page

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