You never want to hear those words but in the end, if it’s your turn, it’s your turn.
Leading up to my diagnosis last summer, I kept feeling tired whilst I was training and I went on to feel more and more nauseous over consecutive days. So I had a PCR test to check if I had Covid-19, which came back negative, but then I went to the doctor because I had stomach pains which hurt a lot and they told me that I might have gastritis. I kept feeling unwell so we went to see more doctors until one of them spoke about the possibility of lymphoma, but we had to wait for the results. I was having tests and biopsies done all over my body until they finally gave me the bad news.
The truth is, I don’t know what I thought, but my first reaction was to ask how I could recover. I didn’t think much further than that - I didn’t even ask questions about what the disease was, why I had it or what was going on - I just wanted to know what I needed to do to recover.
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I think that’s where my experience of being a tennis player helped. Tennis is an individual sport and we are used to dealing with recovery.
Carla Suárez Navarro
Image credit: Getty Images
I didn’t use my phone to search for more information because I was sure there were things I’d find out that I wouldn’t even understand. I had already spoken to the doctors and they had explained lymphoma to me. They gave me a lot of hope and confidence, so that helped a lot.
For me, this process has been harder to deal with physically. Mentally, you know what’s happening so you can learn to face the situation, but there were more question marks around the physical effects. I didn’t know how my body would react to a new and unprecedented situation like this one, so there have been days which I have found physically very hard but mentally, I’ve handled it very well.
It was important for me to publicly share the news because at the end of the day, before tennis players or athletes, we are normal people and I wanted to share that message. Also, people knew I hadn’t been training and would notice my absence at the US Open and Roland-Garros, so I did it to let everyone know that I was going to be away for a while.
It is true that nobody ever wants to read this sort of news, regardless of if you know the person or not. So to an extent, I was expecting to receive some words of encouragement, but I never imagined the amount of messages that were sent to me. Those displays of affection are forever in my heart.
I was told keeping active could help a lot and, as my treatment progressed, I started to play sports. I would have liked to have played more, like football or basketball, but with Covid it was not easy for me to bring a large group of people together. So I played tennis because, in the end, it’s easy to call up one person. I’ve also done some work at the gym, but there have been many times that I haven’t felt like it and I’ve just stayed at home.
My brother is very good at cooking, which means I haven’t had to step into the kitchen, and my parents have also been at home so we’ve watched some television series and played chess. I’ve also read a lot and have painted mandalas - that’s something that has helped me pass the time.
I am making the final steps in my recovery now. On Monday, 25th January, I had my last chemotherapy session, and now I have to complete some radiotherapy sessions. Afterwards, I really do hope that everything will be over.
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Before my diagnosis, I made the decision to retire from professional tennis in 2020, but it’s important for me to say goodbye on a tennis court. I wouldn’t want people to remember me saying goodbye in hospital. So in my mind, if it all goes well, I am hoping I can say goodbye the way I want to.
When I think about the Australian Open, I don’t miss the 24-hour flight or the jet lag, but I do miss my team-mates, the competition, the fans…
It’s every athlete’s dream to play at the Olympics.
This year, I will have a good chance to play in Tokyo, and it’s every athlete’s dream to compete at the Olympics. But it’s not up to me and it will depend on the rankings; for singles there can only be four players in the draw so if Garbine (Muguruza), Paula (Badosa), Sara (Sorribes) and Aliona (Bolsova) do well at the start of this season, I’ll be out. However, I hope if Garbine has a good ranking in doubles, we can play together.
Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind greetings, love and support. I hope that you enjoy this edition of the Australian Open very much.
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