Former track cycling world champion Matthew Glaetzer was on his way back to Melbourne Airport after testing some equipment he was hoping to use at the 2020 Tokyo Games the next year.
However, he then received a phone call while sitting in the back of his taxi informing him he had thyroid cancer.
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Glaetzer thought he had strained his neck during a leg press exercise in the gym, but after being attended to by doctors, they found a couple of nodules on his thyroid gland that shouldn’t have been there, and after an ultrasound he was told it was “looking cancerous”.
“I was checking my phone waiting for a call, then driving to the airport I got it saying ‘it’s positive for thyroid cancer and we need to start the process of dealing with it’,” Glaetzer told Adelaide Now.
“You never want to hear that you’ve got cancer, it’s got such an ominous connotation to it and it’s pretty heavy, and I’ve got the taxi driver next to me when I’ve just been told. You need to take a moment to be like ‘OK’.”
Luckily, Glaetzer’s cancer was very treatable and had a very encouraging prognosis, combined with the fact it was caught early.
The 27-year-old had a thyroidectomy and neck dissection last week and will start taking radioactive iodine tablets in six weeks, which he doesn’t expect to disturb his cycling career as he will be back on his bike within days.
“One of the first thoughts I had in regard to my cycling career and Tokyo was ‘I’m not going to let this stop me’, if I am able to and if it’s safe to, then you know what? I’m not going to let this have power over what I do,” Glaetzer said.
“I have some goals I want to achieve and Tokyo is the big target, and that hasn’t changed. I’m not going to stop chasing the Olympics and being the best in the world.
“It’s the beginning of the next chapter in my life because I’ll never be the same after this, so it’s just about staying calm and knowing there are some really good medical people looking after me.”
Glaetzer is a two-time track world champion, having won gold in the Team Sprint at Melbourne 2012 and in the Men’s Sprint in 2018 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.
He’s also won three Commonwealth golds, two in the Keirin in Glasgow in 2014 and at his home Games on the Gold Coast in 2018, where he also won the 1km time trial.
The Australian competed at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, narrowly missing out on medals after finishing fourth in both the Men’s Sprint and Men’s Team Sprint.