Ex-Rochdale midfielder faces cancer recurrence.
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Ex-Rochdale midfielder faces cancer recurrence.



Former Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson says “the fight is still inside” after learning he has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time.

The 35-year-old has stage IV lymphoma that has migrated to his lungs.

Thompson was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2013 and recovered before the illness relapsed in 2017. He went on to recover for the second time.

“[It is] far from ideal, and it’s come back quite aggressive, so stage four,” he told BBC Radio Manchester.

“[The] only positive is that it is the same cancer I’ve had before, but the problem for me this time is that it has spread to my lungs, making breathing difficult, sleeping difficult, and even talking difficult at times.”

“Definitely the fight is still inside, nothing changes, but actually facing it for the third time really hurts because you know what you are going to have to go through.”

Thompson resigned from football in 2019 after 203 appearances for Rochdale, stating that he had “pushed his body to the absolute limit”.

Thompson, who returned from cancer for the second time in December 2017, went on to score the goal that saved Rochdale from relegation.

“It’s about balancing all of your alternatives and determining what you want out of life. Ultimately, I want a quality of life that allows me to be like everyone else, play with my children, be as active as possible, and enjoy life,” he said.

“The issue with a third diagnosis is that, like the grim reaper, here I am again. Then you start thinking about all the emotions.

“I’d be lying if I said there’s not days where I doubt certain things, but I’ve always said I will never, ever give up, I’ll just get beaten if it does get on top of me.”

‘How can I spin it when I’m in it?’

Thompson has worked as a media analyst, mentor, and motivational speaker since the conclusion of his playing career.

With his illness returning, Thompson believes he must now “find a way” to promote the positive aspects of his predicament when he resumes his speaking engagements later in April.

For example, public speaking. I can offer you the present’s ending, which is positive. But how do I rotate it when I’m in it?” He added.

“Now, how can I tell you a positive tale when the reality is that I have stage four cancer at this time?

“I’ll find a way; I have a major lecture at the end of April, but I’m not sure how I’ll go about it, but telling a story is very crucial; you want to get them through it all emotionally, and you want them to leave away feeling good. That’s what I’ve been struggling with.


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