Parkes on road to recovery

West Ham United legend Phil Parkes will make a welcome return to action this weekend following successful surgery for bowel cancer.

The great goalkeeper was diagnosed with Dukes' A stage bowel cancer - the least developed stage where the cancer has not penetrated the bowel wall - and went into hospital for a procedure to remove the growth in May. Thankfully, the surgery went well and Parkes was able to return home to begin his recuperation just a few days later.

Showing determination typical of the man who won the FA Cup in 1980 and made 440 appearances for the Hammers, Parkes revealed that he intends to play his part in a Former Player Stadium Tour of the Boleyn Ground this coming weekend.

"I had the operation two weeks ago and have been home since the Saturday of the Champions League final," the popular Parkes confirmed.

"I got the news through a from the surgeon last week that everything was good as it hadn't gone through the bowel wall and it hadn't spread anywhere, so I haven't got to have chemotherapy.

"I've just got to have a reversal operation in July, and then it's just a case of resting, recuperating and getting my strength, so it's all good news, really."

"There was always that nagging doubt when I heard that word 'cancer'. It was as good as news as I could have got. It's getting better each day, so I've just got to have this operation next month and get myself reconnected back up and then it's a case of getting back to normal life."

Having spent the past ten days recovering at home, the 63-year-old is feeling understandably upbeat about the future.

On Saturday and Sunday, he will be alongside 1975 FA Cup hero and close friend Alan Taylor in welcoming guests to the Boleyn Ground for what promises to be an emotional and memorable Former Player Stadium Tour.

"It's actually not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I have been very surprised at how little pain I've actually gone through. To go through the operation I have had, I have been very lucky pain-wise.

"It's just a matter of getting some strength. I'm down to do some Former Player Tours at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday and Sunday and I'm pretty confident that I'm going to be fine.

"I'm not going to do the whole full Tour, but I'm going to do a little bit. It will be myself and Alan Taylor, but I'll just do the meet and greet, let Alan go up and down the stairs, then I'll come back for the question and answer bit."

Those fans who join Parkes and Taylor for this weekend's tours are sure to offer words of support to the big goalkeeper, following the hundreds who have sent their own messages to the big man through social media, online forums and telephone calls.

The popular Carlsberg Legends Lounge host has been moved by the sheer number of well-wishers who have got in touch with him in recent weeks.

"The support I have had has been absolutely amazing," he said. "The Moose from talkSPORT said there was a lot of love out there for me and that has really shown in the messages I have received.

"I would like to thank everybody for the messages that I've had. It's great to know and a very warming thought to know that I am still thought of that way by the fans, and it has helped me through the tough times.

"I've had loads of people ringing me up, including [former England goalkeeper] Ray Clemence, who has not been too well himself, so to have him ring me up was very humbling."

Parkes put his successful surgery down to not hesitating when he became aware of the symptoms of his cancer.

While many men may be reticent to visit a doctor for symptoms such as bleeding from the backside, pain in the abdomen or a change in normal bowel habits, Parkes said there was no need to be embarrassed about a situation that could ultimately be the difference between life and death.

"I've gone through this myself now and I said to one of my old team-mates about the procedure of having an edoscopy where they put a camera up your backside and he said 'I could never do that!', then I said 'You'd be surprised what you do when you are told you might have cancer or a tumour, because you'll do whatever it takes'.

"I want to get the message across 'Don't worry about it or be embarrassed' because it is very, very important and can be a matter of life or death.

"The thing is that I was very lucky because I caught it very early - they categorise it Dukes' A, B or C and A is the very early stage where they catch only ten per cent of cancers, and mine was in that because I went there early enough after spotting the symptoms.

"It's so, so important that you have just got to be checked. I can't make enough of a message to get across to people."