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There is always something quite startling about learning that someone involved in professional sport is suffering from cancer.
As naive as it may be, you just don't expect such physically fit, clean-living people to be afflicted in such a devastating manner. Cancer does not discriminate and there are no guarantees, no matter who you are.
Despite that, nothing can prepare you for the news it is happening to you - just ask Gary Ablett.
Last year, the father of three, who is the only player to have won the FA Cup with Everton and Liverpool, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare yet exceptionally aggressive form of blood cancer.
In one week he went from being the completely healthy assistant manager of Ipswich to exhibiting a shocking physical decline.
The 45-year-old explained: "We'd been to PSV Eindhoven for a friendly on the Saturday but I started to feel unwell on the Friday night. The physio gave me some tablets but I started to come out in painful cysts on my head.
"My gums swelled up and my teeth were sore and swollen and I couldn't eat anything - I was just a complete mess. I managed to get home here (near Liverpool) from Ipswich but basically spent the next two days in bed.
"I drove back to Ipswich on the Monday or Tuesday but again I just had nothing and could not get out of bed. The next thing I knew it was Friday and I was woken by my wife, Jacqueline, knocking at the door.
"I had been vomiting and retching and my eyes had haemorrhaged and gone red raw. She took one look at me and took me straight to the doctors.
"They did some blood tests and Jacqueline said she knew something was up as soon as she saw their reaction to the results.
"The following day they whisked me to Ipswich hospital and I just kept saying, 'It is just more tests', but the further and further we got into the hospital the closer we got to the cancer wards.
"We finally got to a six-bed ward with older chaps all wired up. The sister must have seen the looks on our faces and asked us if we knew why we were there.
"We said, ''For tests'', and she said, ''No, you're not here for that''. She told us they had found a really aggressive lymphoma and that without immediate treatment I'd be in serious trouble.
"From diagnosis to that first session of chemotherapy was less than three days, so it was a massive shock."
Ablett went first to Ipswich for treatment and then to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where one of his first visitors was Blues manager David Moyes.
Everton were playing a pre-season game at Norwich and Moyes took the opportunity to check on his friend.
"David came in that first Saturday night,' added Ablett. 'I think Everton had just beaten Norwich but by then I had had two biopsies - one in the neck and another bone marrow one from the hip.
"I could see how difficult it was for him and in the end we came back to the common denominator, which was football.
"I didn't want David asking me how I was or anything like that. Tim Cahill had just scored a hat-trick and I wanted to talk about that. It turned what could have been a pretty uncomfortable 20 minutes into something a lot more bearable for us and I can't thank David enough."
As it transpired, the Everton manager was not his only visitor that night.
"Ipswich had been away to Middlesbrough," Ablett said. "I had just watched the goals on The Football League Show when I looked up and saw Roy Keane's face pressed up against the window. He asked to come in and said he had brought some of the staff with him.
"Every player and member of staff who had been to Middlesbrough traipsed in and filled up my tiny room. I had a laugh with them when really I just wanted to burst into tears because Roy had brought them all in.
"Roy has been phenomenal with visiting me and it has just been so good to know these people have taken the time to ring you up or check on you - really good friends."
That well-wishing has extended to fans of all his former clubs.
"My daughter set up a Twitter account and within hours we had thousands of followers," he added.
"We had Everton fans, Liverpool fans, Ipswich fans, Stockport fans, people whom I knew and hadn't seen in years - it was amazing. All of the messages mean a lot - not just to me but to my family as well."
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