'The idea of not waking up seems a little more distant' – Ex-Newcastle striker Tony Lormor turns his attentions to helping other cancer sufferers after all clear from lymphoma hell
“Two things are certain in life – death and taxes. We will all pop our clogs one day.”
Eighteen months on from my first emotional and heart-wrenching yet inspirational conversation with former Newcastle United striker Tony Lormor, he’s still the same mix of awe-inspiring honesty and positive realism.
"I am grateful for waking up every day,” Lormor beams down the phone, his immediate outlook brightening, even if longer term the cancer storm clouds remain for the Magpies youth graduate.
Lormor was first diagnosed with follicular lymphoma – a cancer of the lymphatic system – nearly eight years ago. He was Chesterfield kitman at the time.
Spells of invasive chemotherapy, the hair loss, the physical pain, the extreme lows. Then it’s gone. Cured? Not likely, this thing never is.
More treatment, more time away from the people he loves. Then gone again.
Third time lucky? Not with lymphoma. It’s back. Life on hold. Again. But, as ever, victory. And a hat-trick for Lormor.
Back again. A fourth time, a fifth, more of the same exhaustion, frustration, angst, agony, monotony.
August last year, however, brought the two words every cancer sufferer and those around them want to hear, ‘all clear’.
"I’d accepted my fate – I was bullish but it was not easy,” said former Wallsend Boys Club kid Lormor.
"Lockdown made things difficult for everyone but I still managed to live for every day. You really value what you have.
“We flew to Cape Verde, then the first lockdown started. We have been to Spain, Corfu, all with my partner Mel.
"Every chance I get I want to do something. It is the way you have to live.”
He’s been to hell and back, you can’t blame the Ashington lad for becoming a COVID-restriction-release jet-setter.
“I was meant to go to the Maldives, but that was cancelled in January. It’s back home to Northumberland for me this summer.”
Lormor has grasped life with both hands as he never had any guarantees he’d even make it this far, having been given just a 30% chance of survival in November 2019.
And things are genuinely looking up, for the first time in years.
“You wonder whether you will ever do this again but at the start of the year I put together a 12 month plan for 2021. It was quite an incredible feeling to be honest,” said Lormor, who has just signed up to run this year’s Great North Run.
"I’ve hit my three month goals, next it is six months and then the year. My life before was living from one morning to the next. Now my mindset has changed. It was a strange adjustment to make.
"I still have my check ups once every eight weeks but that’s my life, hospital and doctors are never too far away.”
Having been handed his fifth chance at life, Lormor wants to use the energy he has left not only to live his own days to the full, but give something back and help others.
Last week Lormor set up a not for profit, cancer support group Briteside CIC, with the help of Lymphoma Action charity.
Lormor wants to be on call for anyone who may be going through the same struggles he endured.
“Everyone knows someone with a cancer story, it is sadly something that has touched families up and down the country,” he said.
“I wanted to do something. And this gives me a chance to share my experiences with others.
"This process isn’t always positive. Some people find themselves alone, confused and scared.
“It might be the case that someone is sitting alone at home, waiting a week after they get the diagnosis for another appointment, with all of these fears and questions running through their heads. People can be bouncing off the walls with it – I know I was.”
Lormor says he can be at the end of the phone, laptop screen or in person, when things open up, to help anyone through their very personal battles.
“I have been through all of this and know how tough it can be. This gives them somewhere to turn, someone to talk to. Whatever it takes to help people through a really challenging time in their lives.
"This is something I wanted to do with my time. I value every moment I have left in this life and I want to spend that time trying to help others if I can.
"I am not perfect and I don’t have all the answers, but I have a big heart and a passion to help people. So if you need help, please get in touch.”
And despite a little more than seven days online, organisations, including a Premier League outfit, have already reached out.
“We only launched on Thursday last week, and we’ve already had Brighton get in touch, and had talks with the Professional Footballers’ Association,” said Lormor.
“I am passionate about it. I could talk about it all day. It takes up a lot of my time, but this is what I am choosing to do with my life.”
We’re now an hour into our latest chin wag. Lormor apologises for “rabbiting on” about his life and struggles. I don’t tell him this, but I could listen to him all day, such is his infectious positivity.
“I am grateful for waking up every day. The idea of not waking up seems a little more distant that it did before,” he gushed.
“I am loving life. Enjoying every minute. Two things are certain in life – death and taxes. We will all pop our clogs one day.”
Nineteen years as a pro saw Lormor spend time at sixteen clubs. Norwich City, Lincoln City, Halifax Town, Peterborough United, Chesterfield, Preston North End, Notts County, Mansfield Town, Hartlepool United, Shrewsbury Town, Telford United, Sutton Town and Heanor Town. It all started at St James’ Park though, cleaning the boots of black and white skipper Glenn Roeder, who lost his brain tumour battle last week.
“I was 16. Straight out of school. I cleaned his boots, set his kit up and got to train with the first team once a week as part of the club YTS scheme,” said Lormor of his idol.
“He set standards so high throughout the club, everyone else followed with him.
“When I left for Lincoln, I hit the ground running. I used to talk to him a lot. Ring him and ask his opinion on things. A fantastic guy. Told you straight but always constructive, never personal. He was just that way. Always done in the right way, never to hurt you. Some people don’t take well to that, but I listened to every word Glenn said to me.
“I went back to NUFC for an old players reunion a few years ago and saw Glenn in the lounges. He talked but he was not the same Glenn I remembered. He was fighting it. And he fought it to the end with dignity.”
For Lormor, the fight goes on. And fight he will, every day, every week, month, year… decade?
"Mel was talking about 10 year plans the other day, I had to rein her in a bit,” he joked.
"I do know I’ve had a good innings. I’m not done yet, though.”