Rebekah Stott's 'positive mentality' key after cancer diagnosis

Football Fern Rebekah Stott opens up about cancer battle (5:27)

Instead of dealing with attacking forays from rival strikers, Rebekah Stott is now firmly focused on fighting a much more serious battle against an unseen opponent. (5:27)

A normal weekday morning used to see Rebekah Stott pulling on her boots in preparation for a training session with her FAWSL club Brighton & Hove Albion, but "normal" has taken on a whole new meaning for the 27-year-old, after undergoing tests which revealed Stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Rather than shivering through another winter's day in England, "Stotty" is sitting in a quiet corner of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, dealing with her "new normal."

Her trademark smile and positive attitude are ever-present, however instead of planning to deal with attacking forays from rival strikers, she's now firmly focused on fighting a much more serious battle against an unseen opponent.

"I did a bone marrow biopsy and PET scan, that showed Stage 3 [Hodgkin's Lymphoma]," Stott told ESPN. "Which means I have to do a more aggressive type of chemotherapy, so over the next four months I'll go through six cycles of a 21-day process, that means I'll probably lose my fertility ... I'll lose my hair.

"It's going to be a tough four months but hopefully by then it's all gone and I can get back to playing."

Capped 81 times for her native New Zealand, Stott's shuttle runs and gym sessions have been replaced by specialists appointments and hormone injections, the latter as part of the IVF process to ensure she has the option of children not yet planned for.

"When the doctor said I need to book you in for an IVF consultation, I was like 'Oh, I didn't even think about that' -- but since I've gone to all my appointments, I've had to inject myself with hormones and [I'm] just going through that process now," she said.

"It's crazy to think that I have to do that now and I wasn't even thinking about kids, so it was a bit strange but I'm just glad I'm in such good hands."

Hair loss is another byproduct of intensive chemotherapy treatments and, while confronting, it's something Stott is prepared for, in her inimitable way of turning negatives into positives.

"I want to do the World's Greatest Shave," she said. "I think if I can make a bit of money for the foundation and I guess try and inspire people to try and look at it in a positive way, not so much of a negative way, that's really all I want to do."

It's a life-altering journey that began nine months ago when Stott felt a lump on her neck -- the first indication that something might be amiss. After biopsy results were inconclusive, Stott was advised to monitor the situation and if it changed, to follow up and have it checked again.

Three months later, that day arrived.

"I noticed it started to grow quite large, around September, so then I went through a bit of a process to try and figure out what it was," Stott recalled.

That lump became two, as the cancer spread to the left side of her neck and, while her daily activities weren't impeded, when it became clear that the likely diagnosis was Lymphoma, she knew it was time to come home.

Home is in Melbourne, which, due to Australia's coronavirus restrictions, required the mandatory 14-day quarantine period -- a situation which many people (even those not dealing with serious health issues) find mentally taxing. For Stott though, more clarity on the situation helped her deal with it in pragmatic fashion.

"I think the fact that it took three months to get to a diagnosis really helped me," she said. "They mentioned early on that it could be a possibility that it was Lymphoma, so I had a lot of time to process that and prepare myself.

"When they finally did come to a conclusion it was almost like relief that, okay, now I know what it is, I can get this figured out, I can get the treatment I need and just get on with it.

"Over this whole time I've had quite a positive mentality, I've tried to take out the positives of the situation -- I know it's going to be a really tough time, but I think if I go into it with a strong mentality I think I'll come out of it really good."

"Getting on with it" means the Football Ferns defender has no intention of hanging up the boots just yet, especially with a home FIFA Women's World Cup on the horizon in 2023.

"That's my target -- that gives me enough time to get back fit and healthy and hopefully, even come back stronger," Stott smiled. "So that's definitely on my mind and a goal for me to strive for."

You can support Rebekah by donating to the World's Greatest Shave.