Sheffield Wednesday: How tennis ace helped McPhail

Stephen McPhail on his Owls debut at Birmingham
Stephen McPhail on his Owls debut at Birmingham
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Stephen McPhail’s career is back on track after his signing for the Owls - and Dave Jones is not the only one to whom he is grateful.

Tennis star Venus Williams helped him to ditch thoughts of retiring and cope with an incurable disease.

As if winning a three-month battle against lymphoma, a blood cancer, four years ago was not enough, McPhail still has Sjogren’s Syndrome, an immune-system disease.

Williams is the only other sports personality in the world who is known to suffer from it.

He takes up the story: “I didn’t hide the fact that I’d been diagnosed with lymphoma, I had three months’ treatment: radiotherapy and an operation, and played after that.

“I’m lucky enough to have been all clear of the lymphoma ever since; hopefully that will continue.”

His Sjogrens problem became public last year - with that, the body’s immune system attacks the salivary glands, which can cause various symptoms, and it is a condition related to the lymphoma.

“There no cure for the syndrome,” says McPhail. “It’s under control. I have treatment every six months for a day, in hospital. It doesn’t keep me out of training for more than a couple of days.”

Like him, tennis ace Williams has continued her career in spite of it. Says McPhail: “At my house the phone rang and she was on the other end of the line. It was strange to speak to such a superstar; I knew it was coming; my agent had put me wise to it. I spoke with her for more than an hour, just exchanging stories and talking about where we were the syndrome.

“I’ve had some texts and good-luck messages since then. We have both continued playing and enjoying life.

“She’s a super woman, so easy to talk to.”

At one point he had thought of quitting: “I had two months where I just couldn’t get to grips with it. I was breaking down all the time; I was ill, not myself. I lost maybe a stone in weight. I just felt crap.

“She (Venus) put me in touch a doctor in Los Angeles; I flew out there with the physio for a couple of weeks. He gave me a course of treatment that I’m still on.

“It’s calmed the syndrome down and given me the chance to lead a normal life, which is good.”