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Jose Enrique

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Sobering read this. 




José Enrique: ‘I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t move, had to sleep at an angle’



José Enrique did not cry after the eight-hour operation in which surgeons removed a tumour from his brain or during the two months of radiotherapy, head strapped down, face in a mask. He did not cry in intensive care either, as he lay in hospital with a tube up his nose or through the endless headaches. The day he heard his cancer had gone, he did not shed a tear and he has not since: not in sessions with his psychiatrist or those moments when he cannot take his mind off it, struggling to assimilate everything that has happened over the last year and is still happening now.


It’s not that he does not want to; it’s that he is not able to.


“They went in through the nose, past the tear ducts and now I can’t cry,” he says, tracing his fingers up across his face and from right to left. “This eye produces almost nothing, a drop maybe; and this one, where the tumour was, nothing at all. Crying’s good for you: it’s a release, cleansing, but I don’t have that. You try – especially in my position – but it won’t happen. It’s a minor issue compared to everything else, but it’s probably for life.”


Life is the word. It’s a sunny morning in Valencia a year after the symptoms appeared, a month after he was told the cancer has gone, and the former Liverpool and Newcastle defender remembers the fear, the shaking, the disbelief, asking doctors if he would die. It started on 12 May 2018, eight months after retiring because of knee injury that provoked anxiety attacks, requiring therapy. By the next morning, he says, “I knew something was really wrong. I was frightened but I never imagined it was a tumour.”


He chronicles events with precision and disarming honesty, humour even, while a Japanese Pomeranian called Simba hops on to the sofa. Occasionally one of his cats walks in then out again. His partner Amy, from Bolton, recalls details and dates, cup of tea in hand. José Enrique explains how that night he struggled with the light, eyes hurting, vision blurred, describes the headache and waking the next day unable to see. He spent eight hours in A&E, undergoing a CAT scan, then an MRI, eventually diagnosed with a chordoma, a very rare brain tumour, on the nerve behind his left eye.


“The doctor sat me down and said: ‘Don’t be frightened by the word I’m about to say.’ When you say that word, everyone thinks it’s a death sentence. But he said: ‘It’s not like that: what you have is a specific tumour that affects one in a million. Don’t worry. It’s canc...”’


There is a slight pause, the phrase unfinished. José Enrique does not say the c-word then or, in fact, at all over two hours. “… ‘malignant’ …” he continues, picking up where the doctor left off. “He said: ‘It’s malignant, very aggressive, but localised. So try to stay calm.’


“If I can thank my knee for anything,” he says, tapping it, “it’s that it changed me mentally. When I had my injury, I couldn’t accept it. Psychologically I suffered: I had a bad time, psychiatrist, pills, everything, so I surprised myself with how positive I was with this illness. Together, Amy and I said: ‘It is what it is, we have to fight, let’s get on with it.’”


José Enrique found a 39-year-old specialist from Valencia, Dr Juan Antonio Simal, a month passing between diagnosis and surgery to remove the tumour. One day something strange happened. “I thought it was a miracle. I get my sight back. The doctor thought the tumour had bled, which is what affected my vision. Then the blood dries and your sight returns. The tumour’s still there; it’s not gone. But there’s that hope. Bloody hell, I can see. Maybe that means …”


It did not. “Of course,” he says.


“I went into the operation in perfect condition: that was [emotionally] hard. It wasn’t like going in blind, knowing something had to be done. Instead, I’m thinking: ‘What if they touch something and then I can’t see?’ The tumour grows from the base of the cranium and the really dangerous thing is it presses nerves, other important things. When they remove it, release the pressure, you don’t know if you’ll be the same. That frightened me: I’m 32, wondering.”


The tumour had attached to an artery, requiring a complex operation. Then came intensive care, then proton therapy in Paris for two months. “It’s a big machine: when I went in, I’d try not to look at it. It’s like a beam aimed here, where I lost my hair,” he says, pointing to circle on his head. He signals the redness by his ears: for a couple of months, he could not hear properly. “They’re radiating your brain.


They put a mask on you and tie you down. There’s a nose hole to breathe but it’s an oppressive, stifling feeling.”


José Enrique met others having the same treatment. “We’re all human: footballers get put up here but this happens to anyone. I wanted people to realise that and to say something, especially in Spain: I did it all on seguridad social [the NHS].


Sometimes people complain about the health service but the quality of treatment is so high. They complain about tax too but it’s for things like this. I spoke to a Chilean living in Barcelona, having the same treatment. Every session costs €1,800; I had 38 sessions. It’s a lot. He said: ‘If this had happened to me in Chile, I couldn’t have paid. I would have probably died.’”


A scan in April showed the cancer had gone. “I expected it – the machine has a 95% success rate – but it made me immensely happy, especially for Amy: she could finally cry.” He stops, grins. “I like being looked after a bit, but for some time I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t move, had to sleep at an angle, couldn’t go to the toilet. It was difficult for her. She’s my everything: I already thought so but even more so after this.”


José Enrique is engaging, good company, instantly likable. It’s remarkable how cheerful he is, chatty, relaxed. He looks well, too: still athletic. “The positive part of this is it’s changed my thinking,” he says, problems put into perspective. But there is space to fill, a life already at a watershed to reconstruct. “During treatment it’s easier than afterwards. I’m seeing a psychologist. I’m too conscious of my body. How do I feel? How’s my eye? The fear is always there. The other day I felt dizzy and you wonder why. It’s not there now, probably never will be, but …”


The but hangs, emphasis added: “… but it could appear. I have to live with it.”


How? “I’m learning that: when I work it out, I’ll let you know,” he says, laughing. “Some people use meditation, mindfulness but focusing on your breathing takes you back inside, so that doesn’t help. The psychiatrist says: if you’re constantly ‘inside’ your body, listen for the breeze, birds, go outside.”


“Towards the end of my career, after all the injuries, I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t want to hate football so I stopped. But you struggle; it’s over. Sadly, I retired early and that was hard to accept but this illness helped me see it’s not so important. My focus is getting 100% well, which I’m not yet. And football helps with that, with everything. Humans need routine. People say: ‘If I had money, I wouldn’t work,’ but after two months you’d shoot yourself. I’m still adapting but coping better. I do a bit of sport, work with my brother in his agency, speak to players, watch games.”


José Enrique was in Paris when Liverpool played PSG and in Barcelona for the Champions League semi-final first leg – high in the Camp Nou among the fans. Alberto Moreno had got him tickets and the view was not great, he jokes, but the supporters were “spectacular”. “They sang to me, hugged me, asked how I was, but weren’t overwhelming. I guess because of what happened.” He’ll be in Madrid on Saturday. “This time Liverpool have to win; they deserve it,” he says.


If the final is the culmination of the club’s year, for their former player there is another game a week later, another stage in his recovery, another target. He has been invited to play for Liverpool Legends in Hong Kong. Apart from one kickabout with mates, it will be his first game since retiring. He is listing his teammates when he stops, excuses himself and heads to the bathroom to spit. Since the operation, mucus builds up. “Disgusting,” he says apologetically as he returns. “I can breathe but it has to come out of your mouth,” he explains, getting back to the match, maybe even the most significant he has played.


“I worried about travelling so far at first. On a flight to Miami once I had a panic attack. I thought I was going mad: that was the worst day of my life – with the day I found out about the illness. It hit me hard. You feel really sick and don’t know why. I didn’t know it was anxiety then. This time, ask the doctor for a thousand pills and: Pop! Sleep. It’ll be a lovely to wear a Liverpool shirt again.”


Just one thing. “I asked the doctor and he says I can head the ball,” he says. “But I’m not going to. If I can avoid it, I will. I mean, I avoided it as a player because I was terrible, so I’m not about to change now I have an excuse: ‘Can’t, sorry.’” And with that José Enrique starts laughing again.





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4 hours ago, Sugar Ape said:


Just one thing. “I asked the doctor and he says I can head the ball,” he says. “But I’m not going to. If I can avoid it, I will. I mean, I avoided it as a player because I was terrible, so I’m not about to change now I have an excuse: ‘Can’t, sorry.’” And with that José Enrique starts laughing again.



That's absolutely brilliant.

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37 minutes ago, Jarvinja Ilnow said:

Nice one, Jose!



The look on Ronaldo’s face is worth more than 1000 words.

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