Ross McCuaig should have been at A&E instead of a charity football match held in his honour last weekend.

His wife, Lesley, said it would be ok to - at least - stay home.

But Dumbarton-born Ross said there was no way he wasn’t turning up after so much effort had been put in by friends and family.

Ross 43, who has terminal oesophageal cancer, has already defied his original prognosis of two to 12 months to live.

With nearly two years since that diagnosis, he is continuing to be able to share time with his loved ones.

The May 29 charity match, hosted by Rhu Amateurs, welcomed around 150 players and spectators showing their support, and has raised thousands for both the Beatson Cancer Centre, and for Ross and his family to make special memories together in the time he has.

Ross has been having difficulties with his stents - inserted to help him swallowing - and wanted to avoid going to hospital on Sunday, knowing it would interrupt his weekly treatments.

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

This month, he shared to followers on Facebook that he would be in hospital for at least a week.

“I was feeling absolutely horrendous,” said Ross about Sunday. “My health still comes first but I went to the charity game.

“I need to try to make an effort - look at the effort other people have put into us. I couldn’t not go to my charity game. Even if I get wheeled in, I’m going.

“The pain had eased off a bit. I got on for the last 10 minutes. It was a very good game.

“I’m very thankful for all the effort that everybody put in. I can’t say how much we appreciate everyone’s help.”

Ross starting playing football with the Boys Brigade and then played for Duntocher and Hibs youth team.

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

He played Dumbarton FC when he was 16 in the 1995-96 season, and scored when he was 17 in the Scottish Cup. Ross later played amateur for Rhu, Dumbarton Academy FP, Cardross, and Bishopton.

It was his former teams of Rhu Amateur FC old boys who hosted their Dumbarton Accies counterparts in the charity match.

The goal of the fund-raiser was £600 but they smashed that with £1,590 online so far and much more taken on the day. Of that £750 will go to the Beatson; the rest will help send the family on a break when Ross is able.

Recently, it was announced that famed Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram also had the same terminal oesophageal cancer.

But he is aged 58 - a more typical age for that type of cancer. Ross was only 41 when diagnosed.

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

Ross had always suffered from acid reflux and had had a camera check five years earlier.

He had been working as a Covid cleaner when the pandemic started, but in August 2020, after months of severe heartburn, he was told it was cancer and there was nothing that could be done.

He was given up to a year.

“I was devastated,” he recalled. “Then I went to the Beatson and they said, ‘no, no, you’ve still got options.That’s just that guy’s opinion’.

“Obviously I proved him wrong.

“I’ve been lucky. The type of cancer I’ve got, it’s not got a great success rate. By the time you find it, there’s hundreds of stuff below. It’s a cancer that once you find out, it’s normally too late.”

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

Ross is undergoing clinical trials for a new experimental treatment on Tuesdays and said he wants to fight with that as long as he can - not just to be with family, but so scientists can get valuable data to help future cures.

“When I got diagnosed, my goal was to get on a clinical trial because that’s the future,” he told the Reporter.

“Chemo kills cells - that’s not the answer. So the answer you’re going to get is by people going on these trials. It’s as much giving back as you’re getting. It gives me extra time, plus it gives them information. I’m very young to get this kind of cancer.”

“You’re just hoping one of these trials might strike gold,” he continued. “The longer you can stay here, the more chance you have got because technology advances every year. So who knows what will be available next year.”

As well as a football career, Ross also worked for five years as a postman in Helensburgh and for George Boyd ironmongery.

The cancer is in his liver and lymph nodes. That’s how it becomes terminal - it’s just a question of how long you can battle, explained Ross.

The family were looking to buy “a wee holiday home” in Turkey when the diagnosis came through.

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

For the dad of three - Ross is father, too, to Abbie, 21, and Erin, 18 - it has not been easy to confront the reality of what’s happening with son Robbie, now 11.

“It’s quite hard because Robbie was only nine,” said Ross, who now lives in Paisley.

“I don’t like lying to him but you can’t just tell him, ‘Your dad’s dying of cancer’.

“You’ve got to be very careful how you go about it. You tell him so much of the truth but you need to shield him a little bit.

“At Sunday’s match, he knows I know hundreds of people and there’s loads of people wanting to help us and do things for us. So what we were telling him was this was a way to get everyone together in the one place.

“He knew that it was a big gathering and folk were coming to celebrate the fact that I’d been good at football as well.”

Renton 2010s - who Robbie plays with and who Ross helps to coach - were the ball boys for the charity match at the weekend.

 

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

Ross McCuaig Rhu Amateurs Dumbarton Accies charity match

 

Ross gave a speech to say thank you to the crowd on Sunday, and he has been keeping friends updated through regular posts on Facebook about his cancer journey.

“I was quite emotional,” he said. “The support they’ve been giving me, you’ve no idea how much it pushes you ton to keep fighting.

“The support we have had has been absolutely fantastic. You couldn’t even describe the support we’ve had.

“I would like to thank everybody for coming, for supporting the raffle and supporting the club and for their continuous support.

“You’ve no idea how much it means to me and my wife.”

Some of Ross’s pals said they thought he was inspirational.

But Ross doesn’t feel inspirational, because you never think about what you’d do if you got cancer.

But he tries to give back when at the Beatson, explaining his clinical trial to others.

“Once you get cancer, you just get into a mode,” he said. “The person I am, I was always going to fight.

“Folk said to me, ‘You’ve always been a fighter on the park, so if you fight the way you did on the park, you’ll give yourself a chance’.

“I don’t feel I’m doing anything spectacular compared to anyone else or that I’m better than anyone else.”

But Ross has another message to share: make the most of life.

“Don’t take life for granted,” he said. “I try to get across to people, focus on things that matter, like family. If you’ve got kids, do as much as you can with people.

“Because you never know when it’s going to change.

“I thought everything was going all right and look what happened.

“And I’ve had that bad news, but I could have just stuck my head down. Make what you can out of life.

“You see how close you are to your family. A lot of stuff is negative with cancer. But the positive is, look at the bigger picture: because of my attitude, and I have got quite a positive attitude and I’m quite a jokey person and I try my best to make light of things.

“And I’m nearly two years down the line and I’m still fighting.”

Visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/debbie-mccallum to support Ross and his family.