Toronto Wolfpack forward Jack Bussey, right, carries the ball during rugby action against the Salford Red Devils in Salford, England on Sunday April 23, 2017. (Stephen Gaunt/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Wolfpack loose forward Jack Bussey went to the doctor to treat what he thought was a simple viral infection.
He had a bit of a temperature and felt nauseous and under the weather. He thought he might just miss a week. It all seemed routine.
His doctor, a little concerned about some swollen glands, sent the 24-year-old for an ultrasound. It showed a lump in the thyroid.
“They basically just said it’s nothing to worry about, that it’s a very small chance that it’s cancerous,” he recalled.
More tests followed and a biopsy showed it was indeed cancer – a form quite rare for a young man – and needed to be removed immediately. He underwent surgery May 12 in his English hometown of Leeds.
Last week, Bussey got the good news that the cancer was out of his system and was cleared to play if he felt up to it.
“I’ve been fortunate,” he said. “I was very fortunate that the doctor referred me for an ultrasound because the cancer could have developed and spread to my other glands in and around my body.”
Bussey returned to the field last Saturday, scoring a try in Toronto’s 66-0 away win over the South Wales Ironmen. Initially the plan was only to play him for 20 minutes but he felt good enough to play more.
Amazingly he just missed four games. Bussey’s last action prior to the Ironmen outing had been the April 23 loss to the Salford Red Devils in Ladbrokes Challenge Cup play.
Bussey, who wears a nine-centimetre scar on his neck as a reminder of his close call, has nothing but good things to say about Wolfpack officials and his teammates for their support during his medical ordeal.
“Now I’ve got the green light I’m just kind of trying to repay the faith that was shown to me,” he said. “Do my job with the boys.”
The five-foot-11 234-pounder also marvelled at the support he got from people who don’t know him.
“The rugby league family kind of all got behind me.” he said. “I’ve had messages from people all over rugby league. I’ve had people from Australia messaging me and loads of other things like people up and down England messaging me just wishing me good luck and thanking me for sharing my story.
“I was a bit surprised. I’m just a normal guy doing my job. I didn’t think I’d get as much as exposure as what it has been.”
Bussey and the league-leading Wolfpack (10-0-0) visit sixth-place Workington Town (5-5-0) on Sunday in the third tier of English rugby league. Workington was relegated from the second-tier Championship after going 5-17-1 last season.
Toronto will be without the injured Andrew Dixon, James Laithwaite, Liam Kay, Adam Sidlow, Gary Wallace and Blake Wheeler. Ryan Brierley faces a late fitness test.
Bussey played for Featherstone Rovers and the London Broncos in the Championship prior to joining the Wolfpack. He was recruited by Toronto director of rugby Brian Noble.
“I met him for a coffee one day and he really sold the dream of Toronto to me,” said Bussey.
Initially concerned about stepping down a division, Bussey says he now doesn’t regret a thing. The Wolfpack are en route for promotion and he loves Toronto.
“It’s a beautiful city,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Toronto is really a home away from home. The Wolfpack training base is in England and most players have homes there. So when the players have time here, they like to play tourist.
So far they have seen Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake and taken in Blue Jay and Toronto FC games.
“The people there are so friendly and laid back. I do enjoy it,” Bussey said of Toronto.