Gary Lineker has opened up about his son’s harrowing battle with leukemia as an infant – and revealed he had nightmares while carrying a ‘little white coffin’ during George’s ordeal
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Gary Lineker has opened up about his son George’s battle with leukemia – the former England Star revealed that during his son’s ordeal, he was struck by a terrifying recurring dream in which he was “carrying a teeny tiny white coffin.”
George, now 30, had chemotherapy during a seven-month hospital stay after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was just eight weeks old.
And Lineker has revealed how the harrowing ordeal has affected him both as a father and as a footballer. Lineker – who starred for the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham and everton throughout his storied career – was still playing professionally when he first took George to the hospital.
Speak with The Athletic’s The Moment podcast, Lineker recalls, “It was mid-November ’91 when we first noticed he had some kind of problem. It was like a small spot or bump on his forehead.
“So we thought we’d get him checked out and the doctors thought it was a skin condition. I don’t remember what they said but they thought they would do a small biopsy just in case. So they did that and then they said we have another check in just under two weeks.
“And meanwhile he had more of these spots all over his head, making him look like a golf ball. We went back to check up and they said it was this skin condition.
“But in the days leading up to that, he became very unwell. He was moaning and had these little lumps all over his body. They took one look, and I’ll never forget it, at each other and said, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry to tell you, this is something much more serious.’ They said they needed to do more testing but it looks like leukemia.”
After George was diagnosed, Lineker announced that he had a slim chance of survival, with children his age only being given a 10-20% survival rate. And Lineker has revealed how he wanted to fight the disease himself rather than watch his son go through the ordeal.
He added: “I wanted it [be] I had it [Leukemia]. I didn’t want it to be my little kid. But while there was hope that he would be better, I was fine. I used to have this recurring dream, and I continued to have it for quite a while after he finished treatment, of carrying a tiny little white coffin. It’s terrible. It woke me up so many times, but going through it, even if you’re in the hospital, there were good moments and bad moments. There were ups and downs.”
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Lineker has revealed football was a salvation for him during George’s battle with the disease. He added: “Football was the only time I could almost get it out of my head. I had three weeks without training and then I was like, ‘Right, Terry [Venables, then-Tottenham manager]”May I come in” because I kind of needed it for myself. It’s a bit like escaping a whole day in the infirmary looking for the worst signs or sometimes looking for good signs or whatever.”
After turning 30 earlier this year, George is now burgeoning as a successful entrepreneur. And nearly three decades later, Lineker has revealed how his son’s struggle changed him as a person. Lineker concluded: “It definitely changed me as a person. I was so driven by what I was doing, how you have to be in football and I was almost a little bit cold in a lot of ways. I really was always like that.”
“I think it gave me more empathy than I’ve probably had before. It has given me appreciation and perspective for people who don’t understand things the way I had them in my life. I think it’s changed me in that sense, no question, which I think is probably a good thing.”
Gary Lineker spoke exclusively The Athletic’s The Moment podcast.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/gary-lineker-son-leukemia-battle-26796956 Gary Lineker opens up about son George's leukemia battle and 'tiny coffin' nightmare.