Footballer who thought he had 'popped' hamstring ended up needing muscle removed
A former footballer who thought he had "popped" his hamstring ended up needing most of the muscle removed after discovering he actually had a rare cancer.
Adrian Owens, from Swansea, who used to play for Newcastle Emlyn, first noticed a lump on his right hamstring in December 2020 - but dismissed it as nothing serious.
But the lump continued to grow, and his fiancé, Shan, urged him to go to the doctor.
The super-fit 36-year-old was diagnosed with sarcoma.
"I do a lot of training, but I thought I'd just popped a muscle, or put it down as a cyst," he said.
"But a month or so later it it had grown bigger, and my fiancé, who is a personal trainer, said she thought it wasn't normal and urged me to get it seen to.
"I went to the doctor and was sent for a biopsy and I then I got a call telling me to come and see him.
"I asked Shan to come with me because I didn't think it was going to be good news.
"When I was told it was sarcoma I didn't know what to think. When we left the surgery I went to the gym on my bike, I went for a run and went for a swim in a local lake. I just didn't know what else to do."
Adrian said he initially struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis, and sought support from a local counsellor and cancer survivor.
"He told me I was like a closed book," Adrian explained.
"He said getting information from me was like trying to extract teeth. But I slowly started opening up.
"I had played for Newcastle Emlyn when they were in the Welsh league, but as I got older and I realised I couldn't perform like I used to, I decided to give triathlons a go.
"I had to undergo five weeks of radiotherapy, and after my third week I did a half Iron Man event in Fishguard.
"I asked a nurse for advice and whether it would be damaging for me, and she said it wouldn't but I might struggle. But I did it and completed in in five hours and 40 minutes."
After having radiotherapy, Adrian underwent an 11-hour operation which involved the removal of around 80% of his hamstring, and the grafting of some skin from his back.
But the skin graft was not successful at first, and he was rushed back for emergency surgery the following day.
The treatment ultimately proved successful, and Adrian is now returning to endurance events - training for another half Ironman in Fishguard in June.
He faces his biggest challenge to date in September - a full Iron Man in Tenby.
Inspired by her husband-to-be and in a nod to his 11-hour operation, Shan has decided to take on 11 challenges over the coming months to raise money for charities South Wales Sarcoma Service and Sarcoma UK.
Adrian said he now hopes to raise awareness and inspire others with a cancer diagnosis to remain positive.
"I have spoken to people going through cancer, and I tell them about my experience and the importance of a positive mindset, and being fit and active.
"And that is what I want to do now - raise awareness and make people realise how important it is to remain positive.
"I was on a cancer ward in hospital and some of the people there had given up, but I was thinking, I am not going to let this beat me.
"Now, if people ask me if I would turn back the clock, I don't think I would.
"The whole experience has made me appreciate life so much more."