Which South African bowler got the Waugh brothers out with one ball? That’s the teaser former all-rounder Dave Callaghan normally tosses around. After evoking a blank look, he slips in the wrong one. “It’s me. Actually, I had a testicle removed after being diagnosed with testicular cancer,” comes the explanation.
It may sound funny now, but it wasn’t so when he learnt that cancer was gripping his body fast.
“I was at the peak of my career and one of the fittest players around. At that time, there were rumours of South Africa returning to international cricket in the (1992) World Cup. I was quite hopeful of making it to the squad and was preparing hard. Suddenly, I was told I had testicular cancer,” Callaghan said.
What made it worse was the timing. “Here I was on the threshold of realising my dream, and the next moment I found myself tied to the bed, watching glands being removed from my neck and chest and knives cutting through my testicles, followed by long chemotherapy sessions,” he grieves.
Did he ever feel that he might not make it? “No, I think I was surprisingly quite hopeful. Perhaps, that’s all you can be in such a situation. But it was tough for the people around me --- my parents, wife and friends,” he said.
Perhaps it was this optimism that helped him get over the nightmarish experience and get back to cricket. “I was back on the field about six months after I had my last chemotherapy session. And the way I was received back still gives me goose bumps. The players lined-up on the sides as I walked to the wicket and the entire stadium gave me a standing ovation.”
Quite remarkably, he made it to the national side almost a year later when India toured South Africa for the first time. “The fact that I had fought off cancer to realise my dream made it even more special,” he said.
As is often the case, Callaghan, too, came out with a changed outlook towards life and people. “I no longer worry about small things that used to drive me mad earlier. I am far more patient with people and more appreciative of everything. Basically, I just live life by the day and enjoy it to the hilt,” he said.