Ruben won the last set, but who was going to tell him when he arrived in Barcelona at the age of 14, ready to conquer the world, that his great rival was not going to be another athlete like himself, but that he was going to have to face a very different type of rival: cancer. Ruben’s story is one of personal growth, strength and optimism.
From a very young age, Rubén loved tennis, and left his hometown, Jaén, to start his career as an athlete. Proof of his talent and hard work, is that at the age of 17, he was already in the ATP international rankings. “I had played a game that was really one of my best performances and the next day I had the finals for a National competition,” recalls Ruben, “but I woke up with a lump in my neck.”
That lump in his neck turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “My life just stopped.” Immediately, his coach put him in the hands of the best specialists, and he started treatment. “The first few days after a session I felt really strange, intoxicated, but as soon as I recovered I tried to keep training,” he explains, “I couldn’t let anyone down.” His athlete mentality probably helped him take on the disease, and after 6 months of treatment – chemotherapy and radiotherapy – he managed to overcome it.
Unfortunately, 4 years later, when he was back in the international leagues and was finally getting back on his game, the cancer returned. And this time, more aggressively. He had an autologous bone marrow transplant, but it didn’t work, and the lymphoma reappeared after some time, at the age of 21. “If I’m here today it’s thanks to the Josep Carreras Foundation. They found me a donor.”
A donor that took 8 months to find. “I was scared because I knew it was going to be difficult and hard on my body, but thanks to that donor and the Foundation I managed to get through the disease.”
“Thanks to a donor I can keep living and enjoy my greatest passion.”
More than 15 years have passed since he overcame the cancer and though he has had sequelae due to the disease and the side effects of treatment, he can continue living out his life’s passion: tennis. “Sports helped me overcome the disease both physically and mentally,” he says, “and the disease has taught me that the smartest thing to do is to adapt and to learn to live with what life gives you and be happy.” Since then, Rubén has collaborated actively with the Josep Carreras Foundation and is also supporting other associations and patients who have found themselves in the same situation.
Ruben is a great example of strength and optimism, and we are sure his testimonial will be a great inspiration to others. Thank you for sharing your story with us.