Sam Ward: My appeal to the hockey community to #playitpink


Our columnist explains why he’s launching a fundraising campaign for Against Breast Cancer and why he believes in always making the best of a bad situation

One evening, at the end of January, I received a phone call that changed my life.

On the way to practice on Thursday, I called dad as always. He answered the phone “Sam, mom needs to talk to you. Bye” and put the phone back abruptly. Mom came to the phone. “I had a CT scan and they found a lump, it needs to be removed” , she told me.

She danced around the subject, refusing to use the words “breast cancer,” but I knew what that meant. I asked a few direct questions until she had no choice. “Yes, it’s breast cancer,” she admitted.

My head was swimming.

Two friends got into the car. “Mom has cancer,” I told them. Ironically, they were the same two guys I had spent all my time with after the eye incident. I can’t blame them for not knowing what to say. I went home and told my girlfriend about it. He didn’t realize for a few days that it was serious.

As things went, it was stage 1 breast cancer. Mom had come in for a routine checkup on a bad shoulder, had a CT scan, and it had picked up. They followed up with a mammogram, and they picked it up. The gods were with us, truly. He was caught very early, so we were lucky.

I disappeared in Argentina a week later for the Pro League. I landed on Monday evening and the next day my father’s mother died. The following Monday, Mom was operated on. So it all came suddenly. Fortunately, the operation went as well as it could have done and they were able to remove the mass.

A few weeks later I was sitting at Delhi airport waiting for a flight to Bhubaneshwar and got a message from her saying she had a follow up appointment. The good news is that the operation went very well. However, they wanted to give her chemotherapy as a precaution to make sure she wouldn’t come back.

With some thinking time on my hands, I thought about the situation. I decided that the best way to handle a difficult situation was to make the best of it. For mum, it was extremely personal and she didn’t want people to know about it – mostly because she didn’t want them to worry about her. But for me, I saw a chance to turn it into a positive, by raising awareness and, most importantly, by funding.

GB interim head coach Zach Jones was fantastic. He gave me a week off and told me to take care of myself and make sure my family was okay, especially considering the recent death of my grandmother. These gestures go a long way, I can assure you.

Last week, in my last Premier Division match of the season, for the Old Georgians against Wimbledon, I played with a pink head on my stick. Mom came to watch, and she caught me after the final whistle. “Does Brabo know? ! That’s typical mom. His first concern was whether I would get in trouble with my stick godfather!

Someone asked me how I made the stick. I did it myself the week before, in the back garden! I found car paint and duct tape… and Bob is your uncle. Amazing how professional you can make it look.

I told mom about the plan from here. We’ll create a few sticks to auction off and have some pink t-shirts made, with all proceeds going to charity. I will also be donating £100 for every goal I score by September. She is really happy with what we are doing. At first she didn’t want people to worry about her, but now it feels positive, she’s happy to tell the story and she’s thrilled it could make a difference.

The support we have received has been incredible. I posted on my social media yesterday, and already England Hockey has shared it, as have many of my teammates. Officially my target is £20,000 but secretly I hope to raise as much as possible. Guess that’s just me – never wanting to settle for the ordinary.

The official charity is called Against Breast Cancer. One of their biggest goals is to find a way to prevent secondary spread, in addition to raising awareness of course. It’s important to us right now. From the moment I contacted them they were brilliant. Their #playitpink logo fits hockey perfectly and certainly offers some great options for players to get involved.

So, I’m asking everyone to get involved by wearing something pink when they play. In this way, we can raise awareness about this cruel disease. The hockey community is second to none in supporting initiatives like this. I remember the last time I did a fundraiser, in 2013-2014, when I was barely known, I had people from other clubs coming to me with envelopes of money . I’m not saying I expect that to happen again, I just think it’s amazing how many good-natured people we have in hockey.

On a personal level, I will play with a pink head on my stick and donate for every goal I score, hopefully as many as possible. For those who are wondering, no, this will not take away my thirst for scoring goals! It’s something you were born with, and it never leaves you.

The Hockey Diary supports Sam’s campaign by donating all subscription revenue received this weekend – from existing subscribers and new subscribers – to Against Breast Cancer

About Against Breast Cancer

Against Breast Cancer funds research into secondary spread, the leading cause of breast cancer-related death. Their vision is a future without breast cancer.

Sam’s page on JustGiving

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