Macca: Morally I have to help others fight cancer

Alan McLoughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Alan McLoughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey v Charlton. Picture: Joe Pepler/Digital South

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Alan McLoughlin surveyed his chapped hands, a sporadic red and sore.

The fight is over but for the Pompey legend, triumphant in battle, the aching continues.

Cancer has been defeated, the most recent scan a month ago declaring the outlook remains clear and reassuringly positive.

But McLoughlin has no inclination to slow his march. The steps are still brisk, maintaining their driven purpose onwards and onwards.

It was a Bristol doctor who suggested the next challenge for the 47-year-old to undertake, eager to recruit a survivor of kidney cancer of the required demographic.

Today the retired midfielder is 21 months into a drugs trial, an optional treatment which could potentially aid others who have the conflict ahead.

A 10-page document preceded the decision, sounding caution about the medical side effects from embarking on such a three-year programme.

McLoughlin’s body is currently testament to those warnings, not that he has been deterred.

Having successfully fought off cancer from October 2012, the Blues’ joint first-team coach is determined to shepherd others to safety.

No matter what further pain he has to endure.

McLoughlin told The News: ‘I owe it to the surgeon, to the people trying to find something that might help people with kidney cancer or any form of cancer.

‘If I can put myself out for a couple of years then it is worth the effort.

‘My family initially had concerns because of side effects – as did I – but I just think in life sometimes you have got to put yourself out to gain anything from it. And that is what I am prepared to do.

‘Very early on there were certain changes in my body which I can’t do anything about but I am not prepared to give up on it.

‘I am two years into it now and with the trial scheduled to end in January 2016, I am going to stick with it. Physically I have altered because of it, I lost all my hair, my armpit hair, everything. I had to shave my head at one point because it fell out in clumps.

‘There has been weight loss, skin rashes, sore hands, my hands are dry, my neck is really sore.

‘You get used to it, I have a good pain threshold anyway. If my wife was here now she would be picking at my hands. I won’t pick something, I have that mind set that I have got to leave it.

‘At the moment if I need to go to the toilet I need to go rather rapid, although I haven’t been caught short on the training ground as of yet, which is great.

‘The thing is, the computer generates the tablets – so to start with I wasn’t to know whether I’d had the drug or if it might be a placebo. For those first few weeks I didn’t feel too bad but the drug has brought my blood pressure up, which took me onto blood pressure tablets and that is something I have to do for the rest of my life because of the trial drug.

‘I don’t know where I am now, every three months I see the drugs trial people and get given new drugs, so I don’t know each time whether it is the drug or not.

‘It is in my system now, a few more hairs have grown recently, so I’m thinking this lot is not the one with the drug.

‘I didn’t have to do it, at the moment there is nothing there in terms of cancer, things are clear, but I wanted to help.

‘This particular drug has been seen to reduce the size of tumours within kidneys, they have evidence.

‘If successful, it may prevent others needing to have their kidney removed.

‘I could have easily had the operation and walked off saying “Thanks very much” and taken my chances.

‘But I just felt it was the right thing to do, morally more than anything.

‘I suppose it is to do with football as well. I was brought up by my mum and dad to deal in disappointments, take it on the chin, move onto the next thing.

‘There are people going through far worse than me in drugs trials – people losing limbs in Afghanistan and coming home and coping with it.

‘Me taking part in a drugs trial is not me being a martyr, I just feel it is a small price to pay for hopefully making life easier for others.’

Candid as ever from McLoughlin, who has just released his autobiography A Different Shade Of Green.

But despite defeating cancer, the medical monitoring continues as he hopes never to see a return.

The Republic of Ireland international added: ‘Every six months is the big scan and late December is the next, with the results coming out early January.

‘That cancer ward in Bristol is an awful place to be, you see people going into rooms to find out if it has come back.

‘In terms of scans, they will tell me at some point that is it, I am fine, after all they cannot keep scanning people forever.

‘After a certain amount of time you must draw a line under it and move on. I will be glad when that bit comes.

‘Once you have been hit, though, there is always that nag at the back of your mind.

‘But you can’t do anything about it, you can’t make it not come back if it wants to return.’