Ian Chappell: ‘I’ve had intense cancer treatment’

With the courage that was his trademark as a captain and batsman, Ian Chappell is staring down a more deadly foe - cancer.

The Test cricket legend has just completed five weeks of intense radiation therapy after he had skin cancers removed from his shoulder, neck and underarm.

Chappell, 75, will meet with specialists for a full report on Monday, but at this stage the pathology has come back all clear and the commentary icon is putting his hand up to be part of Nine's Ashes coverage next month.

A lifetime of summers in the sun has taken its toll, and the master pragmatist says he's confronted his own mortality and has his head around the road ahead - whatever that might hold.

Ian Chappell has revealed he’s had skin cancers removed from all over his body. Picture: AAP
Ian Chappell has revealed he’s had skin cancers removed from all over his body. Picture: AAP

After having a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cut off the back of his shoulder in August last year, Chappell felt a lump under his left arm, and when it didn't go away, he took himself to a doctor.

Specialists determined the cancer had spread to the two nearest lymph nodes and because of his good health, they wanted to be aggressive with their treatment and after undergoing surgery on his neck and armpit, Chappell was in at hospital for radio therapy five days a week for five weeks.

The prognosis is very much positive so far and Chappell was able to enjoy a family reunion with brothers Greg and Trevor last week, before filing reports on the World Cup final.

Chappell will forever epitomise the steel and toughness of Test cricket, and his response to cancer treatment has been no different.

Skin cancers were also found on his chest after years of playing with his shirt open. Picture: Patrick Eagar
Skin cancers were also found on his chest after years of playing with his shirt open. Picture: Patrick Eagar

"When you hit 70 you feel (vulnerable) anyhow, but I guess I've got so used to bloody skin cancers over the years, and the fact that none of them have been melanomas, probably provides a bit of comfort. It may be naivety on my part," Chappell told The Daily Telegraph.

"I've had multiple skin cancers cut off, burnt off and every other way you can get rid of them.

"You get to 70 and you start to think, 'Christ, it's getting near the end now.' But I saw my mother, Jeanne near the end and she'd come to grips with death, and that's probably when I thought, 'shit, this is something you need to deal with.' Not that you're trying to rush it, but when it comes you're comfortable. I guess I've been in that mode for a while now, and when it happens you just say, 'well, I've had a pretty good time and that's it.

"When Richie and Tony (Nine commentary comrades Richie Benaud and Tony Greig) went … again, it was just a reminder that it happens to everybody."

In the commentary box for the Nine Netowrk at Adelaide Oval in 1992.
In the commentary box for the Nine Netowrk at Adelaide Oval in 1992.

Not that Chappell's innings is ending any time soon - in fact, he continued working during his radiotherapy, only stepping back from commentating on World Cup matches for Macquarie Sports Radio because of the late hours.

Chappell famously wore his shirt unbuttoned down to the chest when he played, because that was the look worn by his hero, Richie Benaud. "And consequently, I've had a few (cancers) cut off the chest!

When he walked into specialist's office in Adelaide when he was 27, the doctor told him, 'son, you've got to stay out of the sun.'

"Doc, occupational hazard," was the Australian cricket captain's response, prompting the doctor to compromise with, 'oh well, you'd better get a bigger hat.'

Chappell said the radio therapy “wasn’t so bad”.
Chappell said the radio therapy “wasn’t so bad”.

A few weeks ago, when Chappell walked into his latest specialist's office in Sydney, the doctor - by some extraordinary chance - turned out to be the son of one of his first Test teammates from a 1966-67 tour of South Africa, Tom Veivers.

They have been in touch a few times since, as have teammates, who have rallied around Chappell in a manner typical of the camaraderie which defined his era of the game.

"I didn't tell too many people early on. Mainly because I just wasn't sure what the radio therapy would involve and how weary I'd be," said Chappell.

"But as it turned out, it wasn't so bad. A bit of tiredness at night and a bit of skin irritation, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good.

"I told family and gradually a couple of my teammates and I've been getting calls from them pretty regularly which is nice.

"With the Ashes coming up now, I'll speak to Nine and just say, 'look, I'm ready to go if you need me.'"

 

 

Chappell at the Oval in 1979. Picture: Adrian Murrell
Chappell at the Oval in 1979. Picture: Adrian Murrell
He didn’t tell many people because he “wasn’t sure” what treatment would be like.
He didn’t tell many people because he “wasn’t sure” what treatment would be like.
News Corp Australia


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