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Cancer survivor Ross Hutchins offers help to Elena Baltacha

ROSs Hutchins was devastated to hear of Elena Baltacha's cancer diagnosis and hopes he can help by offering the benefit of his experience of fighting the disease.

Elena Baltacha has revealed she is suffering from cancer of the liver   Photograph: PA
Elena Baltacha has revealed she is suffering from cancer of the liver Photograph: PA

Former British women's No 1 Baltacha, who retired from playing in November, announced on Friday that she is suffering from cancer of the liver, a declaration that prompted a sympathetic wave of support from right across the sporting spectrum,

Hutchins underwent six months of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma last year before being told he was in remission in July. The 29-year-old returned to action at the start of this year alongside doubles partner Colin Fleming and is planning to contact the Scot in the coming days.

He said: "She is a tough girl with a great family backing and she'll need all that because that's what I had. It's not an easy time. I will get in contact with her soon. I only found out about it on Thursday, but I'm devastated for her and know that she's going to have to be strong - and I know she will be - and come out of it on the other side."

Hutchins listed confronting the situation and setting goals as his key strategies in coping with the diagnosis and treatment.

He said: "Personally, the most important thing was to come to terms with what's actually coming up ahead of you. I don't think anyone knows what cancer treatment is unless you've witnessed it yourself or with our family. When I first got diagnosed, you get so much information so quickly. You get hospital visits, biopsies, surgeons, people contacting you - all different sorts of doctors here and there. For six, eight, nine, 10 months, however many months the treatment is, you have to be a cancer patient and come to terms with it and accept it.

"I felt that as soon as you were able to do that it made you able to deal with the side-effects and the circumstances better. And I said it right when I started treatment about giving ourselves goals - a goal to come back on the other side and play again with Colin, a goal to have what we had for the last three or four years, to try to improve our ranking and try to make the World Tour Finals - and to try to take my mind off the actual treatment.

"When I speak to Elena, I will give her that advice. It's not that it works for everyone; that's what I did and it definitely helped me having that sense of desperation to achieve things other than the chemotherapy and just getting healthy."

Fleming and great friend Andy Murray were two of Hutchins' biggest supporters, and the Wimbledon champion was shocked to discover another of his peers must fight the disease. Baltacha worked as a junior with Murray's mother Judy, with whom she has maintained a close friendship.

Andy Murray said: "I heard about it from my mum a couple of weeks ago, she'd gone in to see her in the hospital. You're obviously shocked.

"I've known Bally for a long time. I don't know her as well as I know Ross, but it's still shocking. She's so young, she's just retired, you're expecting her to enjoy just a nice happy life. She's just got married as well so you feel bad. My mum told me she was unbelievably positive very soon after finding out.

"I think that's probably not easy when you initially hear but she always had that attitude when she was playing. She worked very hard, everyone said that. And hopefully she can get through."

Messages of support flooded in for Baltacha from across the tennis world, just as they did when Hutchins was diagnosed.

"I feel bad because everyone asks me about it and it's somehow like it's me," added Murray. "It does put things into perspective. People are asking me, 'Oh, you've dropped down one place in the rankings,' and it's like, well it doesn't really matter that much at the end of the day. It's obviously your health that is the most important thing."

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