Dylan was raised in Perth, Western Australia and being Dylan meant that he never went anywhere without a ball. He went to the playground with a ball, into the bath with a ball and even to sleep with a ball. On 21st February 1996 Dylan’s brother Taylor entered the World and they became inseparable. At five years of age Dylan played his first competitive match, for Wembley Downs, and he never looked back. In the close season he would try sports such as basketball, cricket, teeball, tennis and indoor football, with his younger brother never far behind. Aged eleven Dylan moved to Stirling Lions, playing there for one season before joining Perth SC.
In 2007 Dylan moved with his family to Macau and although it was nothing like back at home the football continued. He trained on grass pitches, artificial pitches with older boys and men, in cages, on concrete and even on roof tops. He had a hunger for the game and every weekend both Dylan and Taylor would sail to Hong Kong to train on Friday night, play on Saturday morning then train again on Saturday afternoon before making the return journey to Macau.
In 2008 Dylan joined West Ham United and he flourished, scoring many goals in the Under 16’s and quickly finding himself in the U18’s, the reserves and finally in and around the first team. Dylan proudly spent his seventeenth birthday with the first team in Portugal where he won the crossbar challenge and made a commercial. He returned to England and continued to shine.
In April 2011 Dylan found a lump in his testicle. He didn’t say anything at first as he felt no pain or discomfort, he was playing so much football that when he did start to feel pain he put it down to all his exercise. When the discomfort became a little more consistent Dylan visited his GP who told him that he had a cyst and there was nothing to worry about as many people lived with cysts. So – Dylan carried on with his feeling of being on top of the World, by firstly finishing the Barclay’s Premier League season on the bench against Sunderland on 22nd May and then, four days later, travelling to Australia to join his team mates and prepare for the U17 World Cup in Mexico.
It was whilst he was in Mexico that Dylan caught the eye of Nike and he was offered a five year contract, however – following Australia’s last game in the competition Dylan had a random drug test and the results which came back showed that he had a tumour. Dylan was finally diagnosed with testicular cancer – three months after the initial consultation with his GP. Dylan fought very hard to maintain his fitness and strength whilst undergoing chemotherapy, he amazed everyone with his determination and his constant smile and banter. Dylan once described himself as ‘the happiest kid with cancer’, but his cancer would not go away. Every time he had treatment the tumour would return within six to eight weeks, it would return stronger and more resilient than before. In January 2012 Dylan had RPLND (Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection) surgery to remove his lymph nodes but by June, once again his cancer had returned.
Amid Dylan’s brave battle came his brightest day, his senior West Ham debut on 25th September 2012 when he replaced Gary O’Neal in the 84th minute of a third round Capital One cup tie against Wigan Athletic. Though the Hammers lost 4-1 it was moment Dylan would never forget, the culmination of a lifetime’s determination and desire, a dream come true.
In December 2012 Dylan had high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant twice within eight weeks.
In March 2013 Dylan was preparing for the U20 World Cup when his cancer resurfaced in his liver and he had to have his liver resected and was out for the next three months. During this time Dylan went into the club every day and worked on his banter, snooker and the exercise bike. He continued with mild exercise until he was allowed to commence more physical training.
Dylan had a couple of minor procedures throughout the period July to October but in November his cancer returned yet again. He was determined to have his three-week course of chemotherapy and be fit in time for the U22 tournament in Oman in January 2014. He completed his course and played in Oman for Australia just three weeks later. By the time he returned home he was informed that the cancer had not responded to the treatment and the doctors said that they could no longer offer Dylan a cure. After this Dylan travelled to Germany where they offered hope through treatments not available in the UK. He stayed strong throughout his next course of treatment but his cancer was rare and he had endured so much chemotherapy that they were worried his organs would fail.
On April 18, 2014 his organs did indeed fail and we said goodbye to our beloved son and brother. His West Ham family thought so highly of him that they retired his number 38 shirt.
It breaks our hearts to think that this could have been prevented. If we had known about testicular cancer and what we needed to do to catch it early we would have insisted on ultrasound when we went to the GP. Dylan was robbed of a future that he dreamed of, Taylor was robbed of a brother and it robbed my husband and I of watching our beautiful son grow and fulfil his dreams.
As told by his mum, Tracey
PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR SON, BROTHER OR FATHER.
If you have a concern with your testicles please see a doctor straight away and insist on an ultrasound scan – it may just save your life.