I beat cancer – now I play squash for my country

Alex Allan, Kirkcaldy Squash Club
Alex Allan, Kirkcaldy Squash Club

KIRKCALDY Squash Club member Alex Allan has shown remarkable courage to fight back from serious illness and earn an international recall.

Alex, aged 61, has played squash for nearly 40 years with clubs in Kirkcaldy and West Lothian, where he lived prior to moving to the Lang Toun in 1998.

He has represented Scotland in various Veterans tournaments and travelled as far afield as South Africa to take part in the World Masters.

However, his world was turned upside-down when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009.

He thought his days of playing squash were over, but after a life-saving operation and six months of chemotherapy, Alex was determined to start playing again.

“It was a real struggle initially,” Alex told the Press. “Some of my club mates had to keep the ball going for me just so I could get a hit at it.

“The chemo killed all the nerve endings in my fingers and toes so I didn’t have the proper touch for the racquet any more, and it felt like I was using someone else’s legs.

“I was so slow and stiff – so I’ve got to thank everyone for their patience.

“Their months of perseverance paid off and eventually I started to give them competitive games again.”

After completing his treatment, Alex was relieved to be given the all-clear during a visit to Queen Margaret Hospital in December last year.

He set his sights on a recall to the Scottish Seniors team, which meant playing in ranking tournaments throughout the season to get enough points to make the team, which he managed to do.

Alex was in the Scots squad which travelled to Dublin last month to take part in the Home Internationals against Ireland, England and Wales.

“I was so chuffed to make it back into the Scotland team after all the troubles I’ve had,” he said.

“I’m patriotic at the best of times, but it was an extra special feeling to pull the Scotland jersey on this time.

“It was a huge effort to get back there, but it was worth it, and my plan is to continue playing.

“The ranking tournaments start again at the end of September for next season - and I’ll be there.”

Alex paid tribute to the hospital staff who helped him make a full recovery.

He said: “I was lucky that my cancer was detected early and could be successfully treated thanks to the brilliant people in NHS Fife that I met in both the Victoria and Queen Margaret Hospitals.

“And my wife, Elaine, who I’ve been married to for 33 years, was absolutely fantastic through it all - an absolute tower of strength.

“I will continue to have periodic checks which is a good thing and I hope that my story will maybe help others who are going through a similar experience to mine at the moment.”