For Ryan Edwards, the physical pain and mental struggle of his battle with testicular cancer was only matched by the strength it took to break the news to his heroes – mum and dad.
The big Dundee United centre-back’s world was turned upside down while with Plymouth Argyle on New Year’s Day 2018 when, aged just 24, he was faced with the biggest challenge of his life.
Just three months later, the Liverpudlian came through the other side, and was back in Scots boss Derek Adams’ team.
It was a remarkable and inspirational recovery from the 27-year-old – one you feel wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his parents.
Speaking to DUTV, Edwards recalled how he discovered he had cancer.
“I blocked a shot and it hit me in the testicle area. That was when I first noticed the lump,” he said.
“I just left it thinking that was that but the next thing when you’re sleeping or waking up it’s agony, killing you.
“Next thing you know I’m getting shooting pains in my stomach.
“It was after about 10 days to two weeks that I went and got it checked by a doctor.
“They organised a scan just before Christmas and I got my scan the day after playing Walsall on New Year’s Day.
“The hospital did an ultrasound scan and told me it was a bit abnormal and that they’d be in touch.
“I literally got out, into my car and started the engine when the club doctor rang me to come to the ground and have a chat.
“I said ‘yeah, no worries’ and didn’t think nothing of it.
“At the time, to be honest, when the oncologist did the scan and told me it was abnormal I just thought ‘blocking a ball in training has done me some harm, what’s it gonna be?’
“I got to the ground and the doctor, manager and physio are there.
“I walk through the door and the doctor tells me to take a seat and we were always off on a Wednesday so it was odd.
“The manager had to get called in, Derek didn’t know what was going on either.
“The doctor just dropped the news ‘you’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer’.”
It was a bombshell for the defender, who revealed it was gaffer Adams that helped him pluck up the courage to tell his folks.
Edwards continued: “He (the doctor) went through a few situations of what could happen in terms of going home now, stop playing and see your family.
“I’m not trying to act the big man or the hard man when I say I asked the doctor if there was any way I could hide it and not tell my mum and dad.
“The manager stepped in and said ‘look, you can’t do that’.
“When I told my mum and dad they were in bits and didn’t know what to say.”
Speaking to former United defender Sean Dillon, Edwards opened up on his family life, saying those closest to him always said to never give up on his career.
He commented: “Because I played Sunday league until I was 14 I always remember saying ‘if I don’t get picked up by the time I’m 16 I’m going to have to think of something else to do here’.
“My mum and dad were always on my case saying ‘look, if it’s what you want to do you shouldn’t be thinking like that, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself’.
“Them and my granddad – he was my first-ever manager coming through from seven years of age all the way to 16 he ran the team.
“They always made sure I kept that drive and my head screwed on.
“Even when I signed for the academy (at Blackburn) your mates from school would always go out on a Friday night and if I was with them I was getting a hiding off my dad!”
Crossed wires left Edwards weighing up Dark Blues ‘move’
The Englishman, who signed with United from Blackpool in the summer, is loving life at Tannadice under Micky Mellon.
However, he admits, for a moment, he thought Mellon was trying to bring him to Dundee to ply his trade at Dens Park.
Edwards explained: “I had a year left at Blackpool and I went back for a week or two before the gaffer got on the phone.
“I’d spoken to him previously when he was at Tranmere, as everybody knows.
“He made me come up and I loved what he had to say. He told me why he was coming here and how much of a big club it is.
“I’d done my homework, as you do with any club, I must’ve spoken to 10-12 people but I was getting it wrong.
“I was saying to everyone ‘Micky Mellon’s rang me up about going to Dundee’ and they’re going ‘Dundee?’ and I said ‘no United’. They told me I can’t say no.
“That was done within a matter of days and I was up here playing and training.
“I’ve loved it ever since.”