IN the two years he was at Newcastle United Les Ferdinand, or “Sir” Les as people like to know him, became a hero.
Yet he was dealing with an immense grief, the death of his mother Adrienne from breast cancer a few years previously.
With Breast Cancer Care holding their 5-Mile Challenge on March 20, Les has decided to speak of his mother, her fight with breast cancer and the massive influence it has had on his life.
Les, who has a sister Annamarie who is two years older, was just 11 when his mum was diagnosed with the disease.
He says: “She was very young, just 30, when the lump first appeared and she kept it from us for a while.”
When a lump was removed and was discovered to be malignant, Adrienne broke the news to her children.
Les recalls: “I didn’t understand the full impact and back then I thought once she had it removed she’d be OK.”
Adrienne’s treatment seemed to have worked and, after five years, she was given the all-clear.
This proved to be wrong.
“The next year she felt another lump and they said to her, ‘We have to remove the breast’,” Les recalls.
He adds: “She was devastated because she’d been given the all-clear and within a year it had come back.”
Les was 17 at this point and was starting to make a name for himself.
He recalls: “Just before I signed to QPR (Queens Park Rangers) she had the breast removed.”
Again Adrienne had chemotherapy and again it was hoped the cancer would disappear.
During this time Les was put on loan to a Turkish club for a year.
He says: “While I was away she fell down the stairs and hurt her back.
“I remember coming back and taking her to see an osteopath but it never really got better. She was always complaining about the back so we took her to the hospital.
“They examined her and realised that the cancer had moved to the spine.”
Adrienne kept from her children the fact that because the cancer had spread into her bones, it was terminal.
Les adds: “But by that stage I was investigating things myself and realised that myself.”
Adrienne was moved to a hospice. Les recalls: “This was during my early part of QPR and at times I was travelling with the team back on the coach from playing somewhere like Sheffield.
“We would arrive back to London at 10 at night and I’d jump off the coach and travel straight to the hospice.
“I’d say to Mum, ‘I’m really sorry it’s late’ but she’d go, ‘What’s happening?’ ”
Les’ career was yet to take the trajectory it would. He remembers his mum telling him “it seems like a waste but still keep going”.
He says: “She was a strong woman, very strong. From the day she was diagnosed she fought it for 15 years.
“She was a fighter, determined it wasn’t going to get the better of her, but unfortunately it did.”
Adrienne passed away in 1991 aged 45.
Les says: “She was my best friend as well as being my mum. You go to your mum with anything.
“It affected me for a while. I started asking questions about what life is all about. I’d got into a situation where I could have helped her and she’s not there any more. It put everything into perspective.
“They say football’s a short-term industry and you need to save as much as you can but she died a young woman.
“Saving all of her money for the future, she would have never enjoyed anything. Yes, you need to look out for the future, but you need to enjoy life now.
“I still follow that now and I apply that to my children as well.”
Les is now an ambassador for Breast Cancer Care.
He says: “When you’ve lost someone to cancer you feel it’s your obligation, if you’re in that position, to help other people.
“One of the reasons I got involved in Breast Cancer Care was because of the support they offer for the family and children.
“When my mum contracted it there was no real support.
“I never spoke to any one about it neither did my sister.
“We had each other but there was no one to talk us through it.
“Thankfully due to the work of people like Breast Cancer Care that situation has changed.”