Rhys Ryan is young man with a dream and a burning passion for football.
But for a 20-year-old journalism student – who counts Harry and Jamie Redknapp among his friends – he has experienced more than most people twice his age.
Aussie Rhys has himself survived testicular cancer but also supported his Dad through a battle with prostate cancer and later with Parkinson’s disease.
A wise person once said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and that is plain obvious in Rhys.
Always smiling, bounding with energy and ready to grasp life’s next opportunity, the Melbourne lad is destined to go places in the world of the media and who dare deny him such an ambition.
And despite having many A-list contacts and meeting so many of his footballing heroes including Yaya Toure, Rio Ferdinand and Sky Sports’ voice of the game Martin Tyler already, Rhys is only interested in getting his head down and putting the work in to make it to the top.
“I know what I would like to achieve but for now I’d just like to keep my head down and work towards the dream quietly. Yet the curiosity to always learn more about the game through meeting people inspires the ambition to make my parents proud and see the dream come true which would be so fulfilling, “ he said.
It is fair to say that Rhys is very well connected inside the game.
“King of the Jungle” Harry Redknapp took him under his wing after they met in 2016 during the former Hammers manager’s time with the Jordan national football team – Rhys knew many people around the Jordanian football set-up already.
Rhys has since almost become part of the Redknapp family – when he’s visiting the UK – and spent last Christmas at their home.
This allows him special access at matches and he has been able to meet a host of big stars but he knows all to well that if you want something good to happen in life you have to work hard and fight for it yourself.
He also understands the value of life having faced testicular cancer at a young age, a disease that affects around 3,300 males each year in the UK and Australia.
“I was playing football in a five side a game with my friends, when I was jockeying a player and I had the most sudden pain shoot up my leg,” he explained.
“The next couple of days, it swelled up like an air balloon in the Yarra Valley.
“I knew something was wrong because I was struggling to walk, so I went to the hospital had x-rays and the doctors didn’t want to make a call on what my condition actually was.”
While doctors reviewed the scan results Rhys was sent home with paracetamol.
“I got that call three days later and was delivered the news when the tumour markers came back positive. I needed to have emergency surgery the next day and l had to be slotted in and I was so fortunate.
“At the time it hurt my Dad’s heart the most as he had just beaten prostate cancer.
“I’m not sure if he felt as though he passed it onto me as even when I was born he had a terminal melanoma cancer removed from his thigh, so it’s a blessing just to have him with us now.
“Although he has now been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he really has faced it all and he has stood tall through it all. There’s a real drive for me to make him proud and I was so lucky that I had the Cancer removed in time.”
In 2011 Dylan Tombides was denied an ultrasound scan by doctors, who insisted he was suffering a cyst.
This decision proved fatal when Dylan lost his brave battle with testicular cancer on April 18, 2018 at the age of 20.
Inspired by Dylan and having also battled with the disease, Rhys was distraught to learn of this part of Dylan’s journey.
“It’s still so unfathomable for me as Dylan was misdiagnosed and given paracetamolin the same situation, “ he remarked.
“Unfortunately he heartbreakingly had to endure the mistakes committed by his doctors and that his cancer spread throughout his body.
“Fortunately for me, I’m in the clear for now and hopefully for the rest of my life.”
When Rhys met with Dylan’s Mother Tracy Tombides – the founder of DT38 Foundation – he was delighted to accept the role of Ambassador for the charity.
“I didn’t know Dylan but his enormous mental strength was so inspiring and infectious, he’s just so inspirational that your heart is in your throat just thinking about his story.
“Even though I didn’t know him personally l feel his pain as his journey is unforgettable.
“In that moment in Mexico when he scored the winner against the Ivory Coast he pulls out the shin pad with ‘Happy Birthday Mum’, you can’t help but get emotional as we all loves our Mums and that was so special.
“I cannot imagine how much pride that has given the Tombides family because Dylan has become a symbol of DT38 and has his statue outside NIB stadium.
“I’m still a little shell shocked at the extraordinary heart, desire and determination to make it at a top level in any career path as he was still having chemotherapy and playing through it for West Ham.
“Despite getting tired quicker, he was still out performing half of the West Ham team on GPS tracking.
“He really wasn’t a cancer patient, he was an elite athlete with a passion for the game like l have too.”
Rhys is very keen to send a message to men and boys everywhere about the importance of checking themselves on a monthly basis for signs of testicular cancer.
“It’s similar in football and in life, you have to be confident.
“lf you identify that there is something not right such as a lump it’s important that you take it to the doctors because it really could be life threatening.
“I was lucky but not everyone gets a second chance in front of goal!”
To find information about checking yourself for testicular cancer visit our resources page.