EIGHT months ago, Greg Shearer’s world fell apart after being told he had leukaemia.
Tomorrow, he will be travelling to Inverness – not for hospital treatment, but as part of the Wick Groats team taking on Avoch in the Highland Amateur Cup final at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.
The short space of time it has taken the 22-year-old from Wick to return to playing competitive football has been described as remarkable by his friends and family. But, for Greg, he is just glad to be involved in the sport he loves after fearing he wouldn’t play again.
The Dounreay worker was first diagnosed with leukaemia in January and spent five months at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness receiving chemotherapy.
Having always enjoyed an active lifestyle, Greg revealed there had never been a history of cancer or leukaemia in his family and he hadn’t known anyone close to him who had suffered from the illness.
“When you live in a small town such as Wick, you don’t really think anyone you know would suffer from a condition such as cancer,” he told the John O’Groat Journal.
“It was devastating when the doctor told me the news – it is very hard to take on the thought and accept that you have leukaemia.
“I have always considered myself quite a very fit person and in 2010 I ran the New York marathon in a time of three hours and 45 minutes, but leukaemia can strike anyone no matter how fit they are.”
Greg spent the majority of his time in the hospital ward – with his immune system low, he was extremely vulnerable to infection. But he was determined not to stay in bed all day while receiving treatment and tried to exercise as much as he could.
“I saw a lot of other sufferers lying in their beds while getting chemotherapy, but I didn’t want to be like that. There was a cycling machine at the hospital which I got a lot of miles out of while I was at Raigmore and I did a lot of walking.
“Getting on the exercise bike was a way of showing I wasn’t going to let my illness beat me and trying to get back to my normal life.”
After being released from Raigmore in May, Greg is now in remission although he still receives regular checkups and treatment.
Since getting out of hospital, Greg has taken up jogging and started playing more golf to keep fit.
He wasn’t sure if he would be able to play football again this year, but Wick Groats manager George Groat was determined to have him back training with the squad.
Greg impressed with his fitness so much the manager put him back in the first team as a substitute and he has made several appearances in the Caithness County League and cup competitions playing as a forward.
“While he was receiving treatment, I told him that we would be in the Highland Amateur Cup final and he would be with us,” said the manager.
“He laughed and said to me he could only wish but after the semi-final win over Muir of Ord, I grabbed him and said that his wish had just come true.
“He has played a big part in getting us to the final and turned our quarter-final tie around when we were 3-2 down against John O’Groats to win it on penalties.
“It means so much to the team to see him back and hopefully it will inspire us to win the trophy for the first time.”
Greg too is optimistic Wick Groats can return to Caithness with the trophy tomorrow. But just being able to play football again makes him feel like a winner already.
“I never thought I would get back into the team as early as I did, but I am just delighted I can help out.
“The one thing I have learned from my experience is that it does make you appreciate life a lot more. You never know what is around the corner and all I am doing now is making the most of every day.”