Max Taylor – a name that probably doesn’t ring a bell. The young Manchester United player has been playing for the U18’s squad since 2014, but during the 2018/19 campaign, he underwent treatment for testicular cancer.
Max Taylor won the ultimate battle
The 19-year old returned to football after he successfully beat the illness, going through chemotherapy. He is now on the verge of his first-team debut for Manchester United, as he is in the squad that will fly to Kazakhstan for the clash against Astana in the Europa League on Thursday.
Should Taylor get his debut in that game, it would be one of the feel-good moments of the year.
“I always had a mindset of that there’s no way I’m not going to be alive after this,” Taylor told the PA news agency.
“But there were times where I thought ‘will I be able to play football after this?’ And there were times where I thought there’s no way I can get back to that.”
“But I think the message that I want to get out to everyone is it is possible – and it is possible to do more than what I’ve done after you’ve gone through such trauma. It is possible to get back wherever you want to go.”
The defender, formerly known as Max Dunn, signed a professional contract with the “Red Devils” in January 2018, but his world was turned upside down in August the same year when he was diagnosed with the deadly disease.
“The cyst had gone and the cancer, the lump, was actually inside the testicle, so you wouldn’t have been able to feel it anyway, so it was actually a blessing,” Taylor said of that precautionary scan, in which his problem was found.
“Later in the course of everything they said it would have been your body signaling something for it to come back twice, almost like a red flag, like something’s not right, like an infection type thing. Something alien to the body.”
On October 4, Taylor’s left testicle was removed. A biopsy then showed it to be the primary cancer, but a CT scan showed that it had “spread through the abdomen, the lymph nodes in the abdomen and started a few specks on the lungs”.
What followed was an intense, draining nine-week course of chemotherapy. A single day involved as much as eight hours of chemotherapy and four hours of hydration.
And while that demanding treatment got rid of the cancer, more surgery was required to remove swollen lymph nodes: three on his left side and three next to the aorta – including one that had gone onto the main artery carrying blood from the heart.
Max Taylor received huge support from Man Utd
Former United manager Jose Mourinho was one of the first to offer his support. “Don’t worry about it, you will be OK, you’re a fighter.”, the Portuguese told Taylor at the training ground.
“I remember the first day I came in to see the doctors and staff and I still wasn’t that well,” Taylor said.
“I was still a bit frail when I was walking and stuff. I’d get out of breath, even just going upstairs or whatever. When I went for breakfast he took me into his office and introduced me to coach Mark Dempsey, who I hadn’t met before, and we saw Kieran and Carrick.”
“Then, after that, they took me outside training and just watched the session. It was amazing because I hadn’t obviously been back and then to go over and watch the first team and just stand with them and have a chat was really uplifting.”
But Max Taylor doesn’t want to be remembered for having cancer, nor have other people pity him.
“There’s a lot of people out there who think, like I did, that people only remember them for having cancer,” Taylor said. “They’d be like ‘ah, that’s what you’ve done, you’re amazing to get out of that’.”
“But I think the message is that you can be more than that – and I want to be more than that. Yeah, it’s a part of me and I’m not going to hide from it. But that’s what it is: it’s a part of me, it doesn’t define me.”
“The cancer is something that has happened, but it’s not going to be what people remember me for. I don’t just want to be a footballer; I want to be someone who people look up to in terms of raising money and helping others.”