The Bundesliga's remarkable testicular cancer survivors
Sebastien Haller is back on the field for Borussia Dortmund to add a fairytale chapter to his battle against testicular cancer, and he is the league's fourth player to return to action this season after overcoming the disease.
Haller is back in action for Dortmund following his diagnosis in July last year, and back doing what he does best after quickly scoring a hat-trick in a mid-season friendly against Basel and then grabbed his first Bundesliga goal for the club in the demolition of Freiburg on Matchday 19.
The 28-year-old described returning to football as "the best feeling possible" in what was no doubt a cathartic moment for both the player and the club, and he made a point of thanking fans and well-wishers from across the world.
Watch: Haller's hat-trick against Basel
He has not shied away from sharing his remarkable story, from diagnosis through to treatment and recovery, and head coach Edin Terzic spoke of his pride at seeing how Haller coped with his recovery. "He was out for a very long time," said Terzic. "We're proud of him for the way he fought and we're all delighted that he's available again."
Equally remarkable is the fact that three other Bundesliga players have trodden a similar path inside the last year.
Watch: Haller reacts to comeback
Union Berlin's Timo Baumgartl was the first, with a tumor discovered in early May 2022 as part of a routine check-up. Surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy followed.
"When you're given the cancer diagnosis you're forced to think about what it would be like if you're no longer around," the 27-year-old said.
Thankfully, the defender was able to fight was way back, and approximately five months later he returned to competitive action. Head coach Urs Fischer put him in the starting line-up for the Matchday 7 fixture against Wolfsburg, which the capital club not only won 2-0 but the result consolidated their place at the top of the table.
Watch: Timo Baumgartl - my story
"This is exactly what I dreamed about the whole time during my chemotherapy: to come back into the starting line-up and to win," he said, having invited his friends, family and doctors to the match at the Alter Försterei.
It was a similar story for Hertha Berlin attacker Marco Richter, whose tumor was discovered in pre-season. It was swiftly removed through surgery and just 55 days later he crowned his recovery with a goal to seal a 2-0 victory over Augsburg on Matchday 5.
Hertha teammate Jean-Paul Boetius received the unwanted diagnosis of testicular cancer in September. He likewise required surgery to remove a tumor but as it was detected at such an early stage, no chemotherapy was required.
Watch: Richter wins Bundesliga Goal of the Year 2022
Having played against Mainz on Matchday 7, the Dutch midfielder was able to take to the pitch once again just a month later in a 2-1 triumph over Schalke on Matchday 11.
Thankfully, the quartet's journeys have all had happy endings, culminating in Haller and Baumgartl swapping shirts after lining up against each other in Dortmund's 2-1 victory over Union on Matchday 27.
And if there is a silver lining to this darkest of clouds, then Richter has found it: raising awareness to get checked.
"You think you're indestructible until you get a shock diagnosis such as this," said the Hertha No.23. "We have a huge reach as footballers and it's such a small test. You go to the doctor and it feels it only takes three minutes."
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