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Lincoln’s Michael Appleton gives update on battling with cancer in honest interview

Lincoln’s Michael Appleton gives an update on battling with cancer in an extremely honest interview with The Telegraph this week.

In July 2021, the Imps manager revealed that he was taking a break from football after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He was back in the dugout after a few weeks out after having surgery before then needing time to recover from it.

Fast forward to present day and he has now took to bravely talk to the media about living with the condition, whilst also raising awareness and sharing his experience, something that could come across as handy information for someone else potentially going through the same thing.

He detailed to the Telegraph, revealing that is was on one summer’s after that he visited Wilmslow hospital, and was told he has testicular cancer.

The 45-year-old had just guided Lincoln to the League One playoff final, life was looking up before the diagnosis, however there was something that he just couldn’t get off his mind, and knew that he had to take action so it didn’t cause complications going into pre-season.

He said: “My wife [Jess] was very concerned, but I was just thinking about what games I would miss with the operation. If it had been Jess or any of my kids I’d have struggled a lot more and had to step away from things.

“I wasn’t undermining the illness at all, it was just my way of dealing with it: by concentrating on football. A lot of family and relatives were a lot more worried than I probably was, but I wanted to keep myself busy.”

Appleton first had a feeling of something not quite right back in March, when he noticed a lump on his testicle, having some pain that he recalled having two years prior, and was monitored for 12 months, however this time he knew it was more serious with the doctor confessing the tumour was “a nasty one”.

“If I was in the shower, sat down awkwardly, or my jeans were on a bit too tight, it felt sore,” he goes on. “I went to my consultant, through the NHS, and because of Covid there was a backlog of people needing referrals. I was waiting for quite a while, but living with it.

“It wasn’t affecting my life but it got to a point where my wife said ‘I’m not having this, anything could be happening’. We contacted the consultant through his clinic and stumped up the cash to go private. We thought it was better to know.”

Cancer of the testicle is 1 of the less common cancers, and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age, the NHS website states.

It’s on the increase in the United Kingdom and more common in younger men, while the average age of those diagnosed with this form of the disease is 28.

Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in 1 of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

Testicular Self-Exams — Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation

Appleton says: “I’ve seen a lot of cancer in my life, with grandparents, step-parents, uncles and aunts, and I’ve lost a lot of relatives to it, to different types. At my age, prostate cancer is the one which is more prevalent, but cancer doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can get it at any time and any kind.”

The manager remembered just how important support from his wife Jess and other loved ones was, and his son, Ned, was ‘head of morale’ and enjoyed trying to keep him entertained whilst in their family home.

As well as that, Appleton was inundated with messages from texts, calls and social media posts from his former managers, teammates and players from spells at West Brom, Portsmouth, Oxford, Leicester and Lincoln.

“I remember Sir Alex [Ferguson] calling me after the statement, he left me a voicemail as I was still struggling with the codeine after the operation,” Appleton reveals.

“I called him back a day later and had a joke about it, saying I didn’t realise I was so popular. He said: ‘You make sure you text every single one of them and ring every single one of them back’.

“I couldn’t ignore him, could I? It was like the old days when he was my manager at United! It took me four days to get back to everyone.”

He has since had a successful operation to remove the tumours, which was said to be non-seminoma (a type of cancer that begins in cells that form sperm or eggs).

Appleton reveals that he felt more alive when returning to the training ground just 10 days after surgery, and didn’t want to let cancer hold him back any longer, just wanting to get going at what he does best.

He is to have a final scan next month and within that, hoping for the all-clear with the news and that he will not need to have chemotherapy.

“If anyone is unsure, whether they think it’s a sensation or whatever, just ask the question. It takes five minutes,” he says in a message to men of all ages to be more aware when it comes to checking yourself. “For the sake of some embarrassment, and dropping your drawers, it’s the difference between life and death. I got lucky because I found it early, but sadly some others might not be so fortunate.”

Appleton has already had to come through other health issues retiring as a midfielder due to a serious knee injury in an innocuous training ground incident at West Brom in November 2001. Medical negligence and a botched operation saw him stop playing aged 27.

“To lose 10 years of my career was tough. My career was on the up at the time and it hit me very hard,” he says to the Telegraph. “I went into the operation with one injury and came out with four, due to the complications.

“I found solace in the gym, and I was training hard, getting bigger and bigger. I was aggressive and there was grief, anger and frustration.

“The doctor at West Brom, Kevin Conrad, said I was definitely depressed, and that he should have sent me to someone. I was lucky I’d found something which didn’t steer me down the wrong path.

“That’s why I have a massive understanding over why people – and particularly men – need to talk. Mental health is right up there with things that need to be addressed. Fortunately it’s better now than a few years ago but we still need to be doing more.”

Since retiring from playing, he went into coaching and has done that for nearly two decades, earning his Pro-License badges when going into his thirties, had a tough time in charge of Blackpool and Blackburn, but has really progressed into a manager in demand thanks to impressive work for the last seven years.

He won promotion and reached two EFL Trophy finals with Oxford, worked in the Premier League at Leicester, and helped Lincoln at third tier level since the departure of Danny Cowley since his appointment in September 2019.

For 2020/21 they finished in 5th place, with his style of play described to be exciting and unique while he had recruited smartly, brought in the likes of Morgan Rogers from Man City and Brennan Johnson from Nottingham Forest, but fell at the final hurdle losing to an impressive Blackpool in the playoff final.

This season has been much tougher, sitting 16th in the table, yet despite that, have only lost three of their last ten league matches. with the plan to spend in January to get themselves up the table and maybe a push for the playoffs if possible.

“Our budget is modest but we always promised the board that wherever we sit on the financials we’ll finish higher,” said Appleton.

“People know the style of play and philosophy we’ve created, where players develop and big clubs are happy to send their youngsters to us on loan.

“We’ll lose games by trying to play how we play, we’ll get the ball nicked off us in areas where people wouldn’t dream of playing but that’s what we do here.

“I’m totally driven to be a success here. The players are up for a fight and overachieving again.”

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