A sports enthusiast who recently overcame bowel cancer has organised a special football fundraiser for the charity that supported his family throughout his illness.
Fitness professional Gideon Josephs, 41, from Borehamwood, said he was “hugely shocked” after what doctors initially thought might be appendicitis turned out to be stage 2 colon cancer.
The father-of-three, who had not experienced any of the typical symptoms of the disease, had to endure multiple operations and chemotherapy before finally being given the all-clear.
Now Gideon wants to show his appreciation to Chai Cancer Care, which provided therapy and counselling to his family over the last year, with a football match in aid of the charity.
The L’Chaim Cup, sponsored by The Elms Sport in Schools, Bushey on Sunday, 16 June and will feature his team, Chai Kickers, against Arsenal Legends, whose line-up (subject to change) includes The Royle Family’s Ralf Little, former EastEnders star Sam Attwatter and ex-professional footballers Omer Riza and Joe Baker.
Each player has a fundraising target of £250, with proceeds from the event going to the Chai In Schools programme, which provides play and art therapists, as well as counsellors for children affected by cancer.
Speaking about his experience, Gideon, who is married to Nicole and is father to Nathan, 10 and twins Ben and Gaby, 8, recalled how he was asymptomatic up until travelling to Israel in September 2017.
He said: “On my second day of visiting family, I started getting pains in my stomach. I never experienced pain like I had experienced on that day. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“I was rushed to hospital in Ashkelon, where the doctors discovered I had appendicitis and an infection. But they wanted to treat me with antibiotics and get me back to England – they had an idea that there might be an underlying cause.”
Once back home, Gideon was referred to a specialist and underwent various tests, including an MRI and PET scan, which finally revealed a bowel tumour underneath his appendix.
“It was a huge shock. There was no history of cancer in the family and up until the point of going to Israel, I was very fit, teaching classes and training regularly.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, after breast, prostate and lung cancers and typical symptoms include rectal bleeding, persistent and unexplained changes in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness and abdominal pain.
According to Bowel Cancer UK, 94% of new cases are in people over the age of 50, but the disease can affect any age – Gideon was just 39 when he received his diagnosis.
It is however considered to be treatable and curable, if caught early enough.
Gideon underwent multiple operations, a colostomy and three rounds of chemotherapy, before he was finally told the good news that he was in remission.
Throughout most of last year, the family had access to Chai’s services, which include one-to-one counselling, couples counselling, reflexology and meditation. His younger son was also visited by a Chai counsellor at his school.
Now looking to help other patients regain their fitness after illness, Gideon said cancer had changed his outlook on life.
“I always look at the positive side of life, rather than the negative,” he added. “I always tell people to be strong, be positive, get on with life and try and do as much as you can, because you never know what might happen round the corner.”
The L’Chaim Cup takes place at Queens School, Bushey on Sunday, 16 June. To donate on Gideon’s page, visit forchai.org/gideonjosephs