Since his arrival on Tyneside, Argentine Jonas Gutierrez has established himself as a fan favourite at Newcastle. So it will come as a shock to them that Gutierrez is taking some time off from playing for the club to battle against testicular cancer. Diagnosed several months ago, the winger has already undergone surgery in his native Argentina to remove his left testicle and the cancerous tumour and is now undergoing intense chemotherapy treatment. Gutierrez decided to tell his story during a televised interview with the country’s leading sports channel, TyC in an effort to raise awareness about the disease. Missing his trademark flowing locks that have fallen out due to the chemotherapy, Gutierrez spoke passionately about his journey from finding out that he had cancer and the emotions he felt to his surgery and now early stages of recovery. Dressed casually with a baseball cap covering his head, Gutierrez revealed that his world was turned upside down with the diagnosis of cancer and that it took a heavy toll on him:
“When I confirmed that I had cancer I went home crying. This was the most difficult game I had to play. I detected a tumour in a testicle. I came here (back to Argentina) and I assumed the costs, despite having a contract with Newcastle. Money is not important. What is important is health and I had to start chemotherapy. Fighting cancer makes the rest of the problems insignificant. I decided to tell my story because maybe this will help people who have cancer”
For Gutierrez, football became secondary to his battle with the disease and seeking medical help as soon as possible has likely given him the best chance of survival. Testicular cancer does has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers with an average five year survival rate of 95%. However in some cases, if the cancer has spread outside of the testicle it can be life threatening to the patient. Earlier this year, West Ham’s promising Australian forward Dylan Tombides died from the disease after a three year battle. After receiving treatment, Tombides was given the all clear but the cancer returned and on the 18th April 2014, the 20 year old passed away with his family by his bedside. Tombides death did help raise awareness of the disease across all sports with several campaigns kicking off supported by pro footballers and rugby stars. The campaign was backed by former Welsh striker John Hartson who too was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent treatment after it spread to his brain and lungs. Luckily Hartson’s treatment was a success and the former Arsenal, West Ham and Celtic striker has since made a full recovery. He joined former Millwall striker Neil Harris, Northampton goalkeeper Matt Duke, ex Birmingham frontman Geoff Horsfield and ex-Tottenham and Chelsea defender Jason Cundy as survivors from this terrible disease.
Messages of support have flooded in to Gutierrez across social media with best wishes from fellow players like Adam Campbell and Joey Barton joining that of fans and fellow cancer patients. Gutierrez took to Twitter yesterday to thank them all for their well wishes and tell them that he is looking forward. The winger is not ready to give up and will fight this disease all the way until he is given the all clear to resume playing. This will come as good news to the legions of Newcastle fans who will be counting down the days until they see Gutierrez pulling on the famous black and white stripes and take his place back on the pitch where he belongs.