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01.08.2016, 12:58
"Don’t be afraid to show your weakness"
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Skjern Handbold’s Daniel Svensson is back on court after recovering from cancer for the second time in three years
 

“Don’t be afraid to show your weakness”

25 July 2016 was a special day for Daniel Svensson. It was only one week after his cancer treatment – the second one within just three years – had come to an end and the Skjern Handbold centre back started training again. The first time that the former Danish international was diagnosed with cancer was in 2013 when he played for German side Tus N-Lübbecke.

After he had to undergo several months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the 34-year-old is now determined to get ready for a comeback at the start of the Danish league on 14 September.

eurohandball.com: Throughout your illness and the cancer treatment you always said you wanted to be back for the start of the pre-season training. Did you believe all the way that you would make it in time?
Daniel Svensson: Yes, I did, and that was part of what carried me through. I had a week of relaxing between my last radiation treatment and the start of the season in Skjern and that did me really well. Of course, there are parts of the physical training in which I can’t exercise as much as my teammates, but I really feel I‘m back and part of it again.

eurohandball.com: What is it like to be back?
Daniel Svensson: It’s fantastic! And it’s fantastic to know that Skjern Handbold and my teammates have always been there for me, too. After going through such an illness, you always have to ask yourself: ‘Where do I stand? What am I capable of doing?’ It would have been unbearable, if I had had to look for a new club on top of all this, so I’m really grateful to Skjern, who took my illness as just another injury, and made it obvious that I could come back once I had recovered.

eurohandball.com: What was like for you in March this year when you were diagnosed with cancer for the second time in your life?
Daniel Svensson: From the start, the doctors were pretty sure it was lymphoma again, but it took some time for them to be absolute sure. Even though I had some time to prepare for the bad news, it was obviously a severe blow for me, my girlfriend and my family. We were all very sad, just by thinking of what I was going to go through again.

eurohandball.com: Was it in any way an advantage for you that you had been through it all before? So that you knew what would be awaiting you?
Daniel Svensson: Yes, in fact it has. Large parts of the treatment have been the same as the treatment I had in Germany in 2013, although there were also parts that were new. However, the fact that I knew what the various forms of treatment would do to my body, and knowing how tired I was going to be etc. helped me quite a lot.

eurohandball.com: All the way you have been very open about your disease. You talked about it on social media, you gave interviews. Why?
Daniel Svensson: Part of the reason is that I have always been a very open person. I talk a lot, and I saw no reason to stop with that just because I was sick. Another reason is that it has worked as a kind of self-therapy for me. It has been important for me to put my condition into words, and I have had no problems sharing pictures of myself even in my weakest moments.

You should never be afraid to show your weakness, and I received a lot of positive responses from people who were in the same situation. There were cancer patients as well as their relatives who told me how my openness helped them. That has been very touching.

eurohandball.com: You even worked as a TV commentator while being treated and unable to play handball. Was that also a kind of self-therapy?
Daniel Svensson: Absolutely. I was very happy that TV2 could still make use of me as a commentator and it helped me maintain the contact to the handball world. I remember one Friday morning, I had to undergo chemo therapy and the same evening, I commentated a handball match. I would really like to thank them for giving me that opportunity.

eurohandball.com: Thankfully, sports history – including handball history – knows numerous examples of athletes who recovered from cancer and continued their career. There is, for example,  Norway head coach Christian Berge who came back to play at top level for Flensburg after recovering from lymphoma.  Have such stories helped you?
Daniel Svensson: They certainly have. For instance, my own teammate in Skjern, Bjarte Myrhol, who has suffered from cancer, has been of great support to me. Already the first time I had cancer, and we both lived and played in Germany, he called me and told me to contact him any time if there was anything I wanted to talk about – and that my girlfriend was also welcome to contact his wife, is she needed to talk about being together with a cancer patient. He has been a great help to me.

eurohandball.com: Has the fact that you were diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease twice made you think about life and what is important in life in another way?
Daniel Svensson: It certainly has made me more aware of getting as much as possible out of my life here and now. I don’t know what the future brings. I’m determined that if I have five years left to live, those five year should be the best years of my life. If I have 30 years left, those 30 years should be the best!

eurohandball.com: Are you afraid that the cancer returns?
Daniel Svensson: There is a big fear and that fear will probably always be there. There is no doubt that I’m going to feel that fear every time I go to my routine checks and each time I get a cold, I will be afraid it is the start of serious illness again. This fear will always be my companion.

eurohandball.com: On 14 September Skjern play their first match of the new league season against newcomers TM Tønder. Will we see you on court by then?
Daniel Svensson: That is my clear goal. I realise that I’m still behind my teammates right now when it comes to being in shape, but I don’t feel I’m that far behind after all. Therefore I’m sure I will be able to play league handball on 14 September. Probably not for 60 minutes, but I’m sure I will be able to contribute for at least 10 or 20 minute, and that will still be a start. I will be back!

Photo: Daniel Svensson / Instagram


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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