The inspiring diary of squash star John Dale

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John Dale SquashJOHN Dale was tipped to become a world champion squash player before he was diagnosed with cancer.

BRAVE Newcastle squash player John Dale died after a long battle against cancer but his inspiring words will live on forever.

The 31-year-old’s funeral was held this week with his family and friends saying a tearful goodbye.

John was the best squash player in England at the age of 10 and was tipped for the top before he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 2001.

He faced the biggest battle of his life as he fought it. But after bouts of chemotherapy, the tumour finally stopped growing.

He moved into coaching as his body couldn’t take the gruelling pace as it did before. But then, more than two-and-a-half years ago, John, from Kingston Park, discovered cancer in his back.

While taking each week as it came, last October on Bamburgh beach in Northumberland, he asked long-time girlfriend Leanne Cook, 31, an accountant from Gateshead, to marry him.

“They discussed June as their date, and the plan was to start looking for venues this month. But instead of making wedding plans she was left making funeral arrangements.

John’s sense of humour and positive attitude were among his many strengths during his illness and he kept a diary of his thoughts which he called ‘Car Jackings, Brain Tumours And A Bit Of Squash’.

Today his proud mum Linda, 59, and his fiancée Leanne reveal an extract – and one they say we could all learn from.

“7am I awoke. I felt really alive and awake so decided to run a bath and have a good soak. The house and the street were still and quiet and peaceful. I slunk myself into the bath. I found myself feeling really content and peaceful and relaxed. It was a very bizarre feeling.

“When I found out about the two tumours in my back, and the fact that my brain tumour had become slightly active again, it gets you thinking, and not about the small things in life like ‘what am I doing today?’ or ‘what things need to be done before a certain time or day?’, but more on the grand scheme of things like ‘why are we here on this earth?’ and ‘what is the purpose of our lives?’.

“All very deep questions I know, but as I say it makes you think about the grand scheme of things.

“After I was diagnosed with my brain tumour for the first time in 2001, my first reaction was ****, that’s it I am going to die, I am 24 years old and I’m not going to make it to 25.

“Then, after I recovered after eight months in hospital and I was well again, it makes you really appreciate your health and your life.

“It gives you a sense of well-being and appreciation for life and makes you enjoy every little thing you do – like going out with good friends for a few drinks and having a laugh together, watching your favourite TV programme, or enjoying a nice walk in a park with the sun out and blue skies.

“All of these things, that after time, most people take for granted. With so many people in this world pre-occupied with making themselves as much money as possibly, or buying themselves expensive clothing, or buying flash and expensive cars purely for status purposes and judging themselves to others financially or physically or on how much money they earn, it definitely puts things into perspective. I remember after the first time I had recovered from my brain tumour being so happy just to be alive. I was really enjoying every day of my life for at least the first six months to a year, not worrying about my future, but just enjoying every day as it comes.John Dale Squash Diary

“It’s one of the best feelings you can have, the feeling you have been given a second chance in life and to make the most of it and make sure you don’t waste it. Everything I did, I felt good about it, whether it was a very small thing or a large thing.

“Everything I did, it was a pleasure. The only problem with this way of living your life is that eventually you need to find a happy balance.

“After about a year of spending money freely, going out with friends, getting drunk and partying and indulging yourself, friends and family with nice gifts, you need to stop and think.

“As good as this is, if you continue like this you will end up bankrupt.

“This is where it gets you thinking about the thing people call a ‘happy balanced life’. Admittedly, with me I was enjoying the ‘enjoy every day, you only live once’ approach to life, but in the end there has to be a bit of a compromise.

“You need to find a happy medium. I think this is where most people struggle. They can’t decide how much they want to be rich and own a huge house and flash car and work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or how much they want to have a decent job which is reasonably well paid, a decent car, and have time to spend with their family and friends. It’s definitely one of the hardest things in life to try and balance.

“Since I was diagnosed with my latest cancer, I have watched people in the streets and in shops complaining to each other about such trivial things like how they have been waiting for something for 15 minutes when the shop assistant told them it would be ten minutes, or how they had ordered something in a restaurant off the menu and had been told there wasn’t any of that item left.

“I have often thought of going up to them and saying ‘it could be worse, you could have cancer and might die within the next few months’.

“In a very strange and ironic way, having the brain tumour was one of the best things that happened to me.

“When I was a teenager you think you want to be rich and famous when you are older and have lots of gorgeous girls around you, but when something like this happens you realise what the important things in life are, like being well and healthy, sharing good times with good friends and family and being a good person.

“All of these things I took for granted pre-brain tumour days. Again, in a very weird and strange way, I would recommend anybody to be diagnosed with a brain tumour (as long as you survived it!)”

John Dale Champion