Darts team’s invite to national tournament a dream come true for March man after breast cancer battle
A POLICEMAN who is recovering from breast cancer has seen a dream come true after being chosen to contest a national darts tournament with the March team he has played with for more than 25 years.
Mark Cross, 42, who had an operation to remove his left breast last October, will compete in the inaugural Ladbrokes Lads Cup at Alexandra Palace, alongside three of his lifelong friends.
His team-mates, Andrew Youles, Tony Barnes and Paul Wright, applied to enter the nine-dart knockout competition on his behalf - writing 100 words to describe why they should be chosen.
“It’s made my year,” said Mr Cross. “I’m over the moon. It’s a brilliant end to what has been the worst year of my life.
“I’ve known the lads since school. We’ve all done different things in our careers but we’ve been getting together on a Friday night to play darts for 27 years.
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“I played whenever I could through my illness. I still made myself go out to be there and support my mates. The standing joke was that I went 190 days without a beer - I counted every day.”
Mr Cross was one of only 300 men diagnosed with breast cancer in the country last year. After two serious operations, seven months of chemotherapy and three months of radiotherapy, he is now well on the road to recovery.
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“I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had fantastic support throughout,” said Mr Cross, who lives in March with his wife and two teenage children. “I had times when I was very down but then I’d look at my family and think: I have to pull through for them.
“My life had been absolutely fantastic until I found out last year and then bang - suddenly I got a wake up call. My hospital file was empty until this.
“There’s no selection process, it just happens. It’s about time that people realised that men can get this. I feel so lucky just to be back living a normal life again.”
Mr Cross, a police officer in Cambridgeshire for 20 years before he joined the Metropolitan police, has been playing in darts leagues across Fenland since he was 15.
His team, the GER Souls, will take to the Alexandra Palace stage during the World Darts Championship on Sunday, where they will clash with 16 other teams from across the country.
They pipped more than 130 teams to be chosen by a panel of judges including the 15-time World Champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor.
Mr Youles, the team’s captain, said: “Mark has had such a tough time and that’s one of the main reasons we applied - to round off his year in style.”