Tiger star Jack Riewoldt tells of his brush with skin cancer
- Herald Sun
- August 27, 2014
TIGERS star Jack Riewoldt has revealed a battle with skin cancer that may have brought him within fractions of a millimetre of death.
The melanoma on his back was removed, but the full forward must return for tests every six months to ensure that the cancer has not returned.
Specialists check his skin, including his armpits and between his toes, for moles, and his glands to ensure they are not swelling and that there is no cancer in his bloodstream.
“When I first got it cut out I was thinking ‘That’s right. There will be nothing wrong’,” Riewoldt told the Herald Sun.
“Then it dawns on you, ‘Bloody hell. I might be in some strife here’.
“It was pretty close. It was cancerous, and .9mm was the depth of it.
“Once they start getting to 1mm is when they get scary, and they talk about taking out your glands,” he said.
“It was pretty scary. It certainly affected my parents a lot, and it certainly affected (partner) Carly (Ziegler) immediately.”
It was at Ms Ziegler’s urging that Riewoldt asked club doctor Greg Hickey to examine the mole at a post-season check.
Concerned by what he saw, Dr Hickey immediately referred Reiwoldt to specialist Dr Chris McCormack, who cut out the mole and sent it for tests.
They revealed it was cancerous and Riewoldt was quickly at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to have more tissue removed in case the cancer had spread.
“It was a pretty whirlwind couple of days, when it was cut out. It started as a small little scar, but quickly turned into a big one,” Riewoldt said.
“I had just finished my first season of AFL (in 2007). I had played eight games, and you have an invincible feeling about yourself.
“It couldn’t happen to me — surely not. But then it did. It makes you feel vulnerable, when you find out,” he said.
“I was 18, and thought cancer was never going to affect me. It was something I was not going to have to worry about for a long time, if ever.
“I am very thankful that my girlfriend said I had to get the mole checked out and wasn’t going to stop hassling me until I did.”
The dual Coleman medallist is speaking out now in the hope his own close call may convince others to take act on any concerns before it is too late.
He is leading the AFL Players’ Association and Cancer Council Victoria’s Make More Memories campaign, which aims to convince men to have difficult conversations about cancer and so ensure they survive to “make more memories”.
Riewoldt’s mother has also had a skin cancer removed, and his own close call has prompted Riewoldt to ensure his brother gets regular check-ups.
Several Tiger teammates have also been convinced to get themselves examined.
His experience added to his determination to use his position at the club to help others who have suffered through cancer, such as Ethan, Kaiden and Brielle Holiday, whose Tiger tragic father, Adam, died of cancer.
And he became close to Tyler Fishlock, now 11, during the brave boy’s battles with the disease.
“If the shoe was on the other foot it would be awesome if somebody did that for me,” Riewoldt said.
“There are people who go through horrific things, and it is scary.
“When you do things like the Good Friday Appeal, you meet kids who have the strength of 100 AFL footballers,” he said.
“The things these kids and their families go through can be quite inspiring.”
Cancer Council Victoria chief executive officer Todd Harper praised Riewoldt for sharing his personal story, saying the AFLPA’s involvement in the Making Memories campaign would improve — and save — lives.
“Thank goodness Jack got checked out when he did,” Mr Harper said.
“It shows the importance of all of us taking cancer seriously.
“It doesn’t matter if you are an elite athlete like Jack Riewoldt. Cancer can affect us all,” he said.
“Often the cancer experience is a time when people really think about what is important to them in life, and that has been the journey that Jack has been through,” Mr Harper said.
“That is the premise of the Making Memories campaign: we want to provide an opportunity for people to continuing enjoying the things they do in life, and they can do that by preventing more cases of cancer and making sure men get checked out for things like the type of sun spots Jack found on his skin.”
For more information and make your own footy card visit www.cancervic.org.au/makemorememories