The former Arsenal, Celtic, West Ham and Wales soccer star was speaking yesterday as he launched a major cancer charity fundraiser in Cork organised by the family and friends of Mark Prendergast, who died from testicular cancer in 2012.
Hartson, who was treated in 2009 for testicular cancer, which later spread to his brain and lungs, said he was delighted to support the Make Your Mark on Cancer charity walk in aid of The Mercy Hospital Foundation.
His treatment was successful and, by December 2009, the cancer had been virtually eradicated from his body.
But he warned yesterday that early diagnosis is crucial for better treatment outcomes.
“As a professional footballer, I had it all — the fame that earning 51 caps for Wales brought me and the enviable lifestyle that scoring over 100 goals in the green and white of Celtic afforded me,” he said. “I also had the warning signs of testicular cancer, but I ignored them.
“I want people to know that everything I went through, and everything I put my loved ones through, could have been avoided had I known more about the disease, particularly, the importance of catching it early.”
The Make Your Mark on Cancer walk was set up by family and friends of Mark Prendergast who lost his battle with testicular cancer in June 2012.
Mark’s wife, Fiona, said they were thrilled with last year’s event which raised almost €50,000.
“Mark was a firm believer in making the best of every situation which inspired us to come together and help other cancer patients and their families. Turning can’ts into cans, and dreams into plans,” she said.
“Our aim as a group was to make a mark on cancer and cancer care in Cork, and every individual who walked, sponsored a walker, made a donation towards the running of the event, or helped out in any way, has a lot to be proud of.
“We made a Mark . . . we made a difference, and we’re urging people to come out and do the same again on July 13.”
This year’s 22km-sponsored walk will take place on Sunday, July 13, from The Viaduct on the N71, to the Town Hall in Bandon.
The money raised will help fund the development of The Mercy Cancer Support Centre at Sheares Street, a rapid access clinic for patients with testicular cancer, and the foundation’s Testicular Cancer Awareness programme in schools.
The walk will begin at The Viaduct at 10am. Buses sponsored by McCarthy Coaches will leave Kellehers in Bandon from 8.30am, with the last bus at 9.30am.
There will also be a starting point in Innishannon for those who want a shorter option.
Damien Prendergast, the chairperson of the organising committee, said the walk is not as daunting as it sounds.
“Last year I was thrilled with the response from fellow participants, we had laughs, we made memories, and the sense of achievement was amazing,” he said
The Mercy Hospital Foundation’s chief executive, Micheál Sheridan, said raising awareness about testicular cancer and the importance of self-checking cannot be underestimated.
“This event is a fantastic way for people to remember loved ones lost or, indeed, battling cancer, while simultaneously raising much needed funds to help the Mercy Hospital Foundation to make a real difference to the lives of patients and their families at the Mercy Hospital,” he said.
Sponsorship cards are now available from the Mercy Hospital Foundation, by phoning 086-4542132 or emailing email@example.com.