Know this article's about Ross but with plenty of Andy mentions, article gives an account of Ross' day at the Royal Marsden when having a chemo, for someone who knows little about the treatment, this was hugely insightful. Also, Andy's going to be Ross' best man!!| guardian.co.uk | Ross Hutchins on Andy Murray's friendship and fighting cancer - http://aggbot.com/Tennis-News/article/19526620
Ross Hutchins, British tennis player, during a chemotherapy session to treat his cancer at The Royal Marsden hospital, Sutton. Photograph: Tom Jenkins
Every other Thursday, for Ross Hutchins, is the same. His increasingly familiar routine at the Royal Marsden hospital in Sutton has its own quietly repetitive soundtrack. A chemotherapy pump whirrs and chatters as its medication flows down from the bag above his head and into the cannula that has been fed into a vein in his right arm.
The pump sounds as innocuous as an old ink-jet printer. It sighs and chunters while Hutchins lies on the bed, his arm supported by a heat pad. But, rather than printing out sentence after sentence of a book about his life as a professional tennis player, the pump drives a concoction that aims to destroy every remnant of the cancer that stealthily invaded his body. The chemotherapy will also kill many of the white blood cells that help him fight infection. Before Hutchins becomes healthy again, he will feel more sickness.
"I'll turn pale as we go through the day," he says cheerfully on a beautiful morning. The pump, his mechanical ally in the fight against Hodgkin's lymphoma has already flushed his system with saline to, as he explains, "make my veins more welcoming to the chemo".
Hutchins, a Davis Cup regular who has played two grand slam doubles quarter-finals, studies the first of three medications seeping through his system. "This is clear but the one dose of chemo is very red. The last one is a special large-volume drug. It goes into your bloodstream and reaches from the tips of your earlobes to the end of your toes. Every cell gets hit by the chemo."
To many people the 28-year-old is simply Andy Murray's best friend, and the doubles specialist to whom the fiercely protective Scot dedicated his victory at the Brisbane International in January with a tearful promise that he will survive.
"I told Andy on 27 December," Hutchins remembers. "It was tough – just like when I phoned Colin [Fleming, his doubles partner]. Andy and Colin are my closest friends. Andy will be the first person to help me and I love that about him. But I was concerned. I said: 'I've got something to tell you but I don't want it to affect you.' I'd have been happy if he said: 'As long as you're OK, let's talk after Australia because this is a huge month.' But he wanted to know. Afterwards he said: 'You're going to get through this, you're going to become a better person and a better tennis player. You're going to be far stronger, mentally.'
"When I called Colin he said: 'Your first tournament back you're playing with me. You and me – we're the team.' That's so uplifting because there's nothing worse in doubles than not having a partner. Of the five or six people who have helped me through this, Andy and Colin top that list. Andy is going to be best man at my wedding, with my brother,
and Colin will be an usher. That was going to be the case anyway – but they shine in my head even more."
Did Hutchins know that Murray would make such a public declaration of support for him in Brisbane? "No. We spoke every day but he put on a brave face. I was just glad he won the tournament. It felt good that I was not ruining his career! When he dedicated it to me it was very special. I was at home with Lindsay [his fiancee] and she choked up. I hadn't told the public yet. Andy then saying it made it the perfect time for me to confirm I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma."
A knock on the door interrupts us. "Hey, Laura," Hutchins says to the senior nurse. While she seeks a vein for the next dose, Hutchins asks the nurse about her five-year-old son. Laura tells him that her little boy has started tennis lessons. "That's great," Hutchins says. He could be donating blood rather than enduring another brutal session of chemotherapy.
Yet he explains how the cancer took over his body. "I started getting back pain last April but it only became excruciating in October. We were playing well – because Colin was exceptional – and reached the semis in Beijing and Shanghai. The pain would only take hold around nine at night. It would last for seven hours until I was so tired I'd fall asleep for just a couple of hours."
Fleming and Hutchins finished ninth in the world rankings but, in mid-December, the pain darkened. "I couldn't get any sleep so I lay on a foam-roller just so I could have pain somewhere else. An LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) physio, Shane, said: 'I'm sure it's not this, but you haven't ruled out cancer of the back.' He also said I should get my kidneys checked out. I flew home."
A scan of Hutchins' kidneys showed pneumonia in the bottom of his lung. A CAT scan of his upper lung then revealed an ominous shadow across his chest. "It was pure luck because, otherwise, they would never have gone for a higher scan. I had a biopsy and, even though it could have been an infection, the way the doctors talked made me think: 'Prepare yourself. This is lymphoma.'
"Christmas was difficult. I had the biopsy on 22 December and got the results on the 27th. When I took the call I was in a room with Lindsay and the doctor came to the point very quickly. He said: 'I'm afraid we've found a large amount of lymphoma.' The first time I got upset was when I opened the door and my brother and sister were standing outside. I broke down for five seconds. I then saw my mum and the same thing happened. Literally a quick burst of tears and then I said, 'OK, guys, I'll get through this.' That's the only time I've cried."
He settled quickly on the Royal Marsden. "They've become like my second family," he says. "Nurses are the most under-rated people and as soon as I met Professor Cunningham I got this strong feeling: 'This is the guy who will cure me.'"
Hutchins falls briefly silent as he remembers the bleakest days. "At the start it was all bad. The cancer's in your spleen. It's stage four, not stage two. The chemo treatment has been extended from three to six months. The cancer's in the bone in your back and we don't know if it's gone into the bone marrow."
Cancer had been in his body, secretly, for 18 months. "It had been loitering in my back and then, when it started hurting so bad, it was saying, I'm going to hurt you so you know I'm here."
He looks up. "But then you get good news. The bone marrow is clear. The first scan after chemo said it had reduced a lot. You build on that hope. You feel stronger."
Has he thought about death? "Yes. Absolutely. But your mindset has to be about survival. As soon as it comes into my mind, I say: 'No Ross, you're not going down that route. You have to trust the people at this amazing hospital.'
"I look at it as a tennis match. The cancer is my opponent and I have to beat it. I think I've handled it well, and if I come through this it will be the thing I'm most proud of – how strong I've tried to stay."
The prickly feeling that often takes hold of him every alternate Thursday is absent today. Laura has found a good vein. "You feel it most with the tough one at the end, the detox, the 'toilet cleaner' which is very strong. The last session, number eight, was probably the hardest. I was depleted for much longer and lost my [sense of] taste. I had more motion sickness and I hardly ate anything. But today is session nine of 12.
"The toughest thing is that 24 hours after chemo you self-inject a white-blood-cell fluid into your stomach. Within an hour your body aches like you've got the flu – but far worse. The injection boosts your white blood cells by putting in fresh ones. It's saying: 'OK white blood cells, let's build, let's get healthy.' Saturday will be the fifth set – that's when you're battling."
He and Murray are contesting a private duel over who will lose their hair first. "Andy struggles," Hutchins laughs. "He's thinner on the crown but I'm low on hair now. The nurses are surprised I haven't lost all my hair but it hasn't gone completely. If I wake up and Lindsay suddenly has a face like this [Hutchins imitates The Scream] I'll know my hair has finally gone."
Hutchins is due three more sessions after today – hopefully his last treatment will be on 13 June. "That's three days before the Rally Against Cancer," he says, concentrating on his mission to raise money for the Marsden in a charity drive culminating in a doubles match on finals day at Queen's when Murray and Tim Henman play Ivan Lendl and Tomas Berdych. "I knew Andy would do it for me but it means a lot that Tim said yes. Tim was my idol when I was a kid. To see them playing Ivan and Tomas will mean the world to me.
"I might be feeling a bit rough after that last big hit of chemo but I'll be uplifted by Queen's. Four weeks later I'll have a PET scan of the whole body and a CT scan of the chest. I like to think it'll show I'm clear. Then I'll have another PET scan three months later. So it will be October before I know for sure if I'm in remission. Hopefully it will be good news and I'll be able to train in November and December – and go with Andy to Miami. I hope to play again with Colin in Australia early next year."
So much hope shines out of Hutchins that, three hours into our morning, it's easy for him to smile when Laura returns for the last and hardest hit of chemo. She repeats the curious routine that precedes every dose of medication.
"What is your name and date of birth?" she asks of a man who knows the names of all the children and the pets belonging to her and her fellow nurses. "Ross Hutchins," he says. "I was born on 22 February 1985."
Sunlight streams into the hospital room. It feels quiet and serene before we start talking again, chattering about the steely presence of Murray on court and his contrasting warmth as a loyal friend. We talk about football managers and marriage proposals, about Hutchins's desire to eat sushi again, and most of all about him returning to real life and gruelling days on tennis courts around the world.