Hutchins vows to fight cancer
Ross Hutchins revealed he may have had cancer for 18 months as he prepared to begin treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The British Davis Cup player announced the news on Sunday and he will undergo his first chemotherapy session at the Royal Marsden Hospital on Thursday.
Hutchins said: "They've been absolutely brilliant. I feel very confident that they're going to do the best for me.
"I don't find it that scary, I'm ready for the treatment. The mentality I have is the sooner I begin the chemotherapy, the sooner I can get this out of my body and get back on court.
"The wait is the tough part. I want to fight this thing."
The illness revealed itself in the form of back pain, which Hutchins first felt during Britain's Davis Cup tie against Belgium last April.
It went away for a few months but came back stronger in the autumn, and the 27-year-old flew home from the Lawn Tennis Association's training camp at La Manga in Spain last month for tests.
Hutchins said: "I've always struggled with my hips and lower back so I thought it was just a tennis player's injury and it would get worse and get better, but it was bad even when I had time off."
Initially Hutchins saw a kidney specialist, who gave him the all-clear but sent him to a chest specialist because tests showed he had pneumonia.
"She said I had enlarged lymph nodes in my chest close to my heart, which could mean my body was fighting an infection or I could have lymphoma," said Hutchins.
"As soon as she said it I could kind of tell she felt it was more likely it was cancer.
"That was obviously a shock at the time. You automatically think it could be dangerous, that it would mean a long time out of the game. Christmas was coming up and you do think about what's going to happen.
"I had a biopsy and on December 27 I had the call that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Obviously that was tough, but I found it tougher to take the first time they mentioned what it might be and I realised it could be life-changing.
"I'd had time to prepare for it, so he was telling me what I already thought. It was very tough for 20 minutes but after that I settled down and realised I had to get on with it and my next question was about treatment and what happened next."
Hutchins revealed his diagnosis on Twitter and has been overwhelmed by the messages he has received, more than 1,000 from fellow players, cancer sufferers and from strangers simply wishing him well.
The most high-profile message of support came from Andy Murray, a long-time friend and occasional doubles partner of Hutchins.
An emotional Murray said after his title win in Brisbane on Sunday: "I'd like to dedicate this victory to one of my best friends. He's back home watching and you're going to get through it."
Murray also wrote a message on the TV camera lens, and Hutchins said: "We're very close.
"He's one of my best friends, if not my best friend. When he said it I knew immediately it was for me, and the message he wrote too.
"Andy's been absolutely brilliant. He was the first person I told outside my family. I told him I wanted him to know before it got out because I want him with me on this one.
"He wants to know every day how I'm feeling and what's happening, whether it's bad or good. It's great to have people who you can be completely honest with.
"It makes me feel good that he won Brisbane. It was obviously very upsetting for him to hear but I was pleased he was able to focus on the tournament. I knew he would be able to, I wouldn't have told him if I didn't think he could handle it."
Hutchins' tennis career is likely to be on hold for a long time, with the Londoner scheduled for chemotherapy sessions every fortnight for three to four months.
But the doubles specialist, who is ranked 28th in the world, is very much thinking of getting back on court and is not scheduled to have radiotherapy because of the effect it could have on his lungs.
Hutchins is under the care of Professor David Cunningham, and said: "He's been very understanding.
"He said I've probably had it for between 12 and 18 months so we were joking that was the reason I lost at the Paris Masters or couldn't serve out a match in Shanghai.
"He's excited to get me to remission and be 100 per cent for the first time in a long time."