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Rebekah Stott’s Inspirational Return: Overcoming Cancer to Represent New Zealand at the Women’s World Cup


Brighton defender Rebekah Stott, who successfully battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, opens up about her cancer journey and returning to football ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She shares her positive outlook, determination, and hopes to inspire the next generation of footballers in New Zealand.

The opening game of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will see joint hosts New Zealand take on Norway at Auckland’s Eden Park and for one Ferns player, the moment will be extra special.

In the first episode of World at Their Feet on Discovery+, Brighton defender Rebekah Stott looks ahead to representing her nation at home as well as discussing her journey to come back from cancer to resume her football career.

The 30-year-old, whose career has seen her play in Germany, USA and Norway, talks in detail about receiving her diagnosis not long after first joining the WSL club in 2020, and returning to her home in Australia for subsequent treatment.

Obviously, I came to Brighton all excited and ready to go,” she says. “I had a little bit of a lump on my neck.

“It kept growing and getting bigger and bigger. I had surgery, I had a needle biopsy.

“Finally, after about three or four months, we got the diagnosis that I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“‘Why did this happen to me?’, has definitely gone through my head a lot, but I know that I will never know the answer to that.

“‘Yes, this sucks, but I have a good prognosis. In a crap situation, I am lucky’.

“It was all quite rushed. I was straight in for my first day of chemo. The first cycle was bad. I was throwing up everywhere.

“And then bone aches, headaches, dizziness, mouth ulcers, they were probably one of the worst because you were trying to eat, and it would just be impossible.”

Despite the challenges and difficulties she endured, including losing her hair, Stott refused to be downbeat. Her beaming smile rarely leaving her face and retaining a positive outlook as she chronicled her chemotherapy and treatment journey on social media and through her blog.

With support from family and friends, including former Melbourne City teammate Steph Catley, Stott’s determination to get back in the game never wavered.

“My family was great. My friends were really there for me,” she admitted. “I had a lot of people looking after me.”

“The thought of getting back to football when I finished my cancer treatment was always there and that was always my goal, to get back on the field, so that was a huge motivation for me.”

On July 23, 2021, Stott took to her blog to put up ‘the blog post I’ve been waiting to write’ announcing that she was in complete remission.

“I was about to start my fourth cycle,” she says. “And the doctor is like, ‘Are you ready for your last one?’

“I was like, ‘Sorry what? Like, no, I have got another two after this.’

“And he goes, ‘No, you are pretty much in remission.’

“I was just like, ‘Are you serious? This is nearly over.’”

Catley revealed the moment her friend told her the good news:

“I saw she was ringing me, and I answered straight away. And then she just blurted it out.

“I’m pretty sure I just broke down crying, I was so happy”.

It wasn’t long before Stott laced up her boots again. In fact, she even took to the pitch before news of her remission, making a short cameo of a few minutes for NPLW Victoria club Bulleen Lions.

“I did play,” she confessed. “Just locally. It was crazy. I didn’t expect it to be so emotional but it really was. I THINK THERE IS A PHOTO OF ME, JUST WITH THIS MASSIVE SMILE ON MY FACE. I WAS JUST SO HAPPY TO BE BACK ON THE FIELD.”

Within months, she re-signed for Melbourne City, and in 2022, Brighton announced Stott would return to the club on a two-year deal.

Having represented New Zealand at two Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 as well as at the 2015 World Cup, Stott is thrilled to be able to pull on the black shirt at an international tournament once more, particularly in her home country.

As well as setting her sights on performing well, Stott also believes the Ferns can inspire stars of the future with a good display on home soil.

“For New Zealand at the World Cup, we definitely want to get out of the group stage,” she said. “We want to get to the round of 16 and really give it a good go.

“But I think what is important for us is to really inspire the new generation in New Zealand, boys and girls to play football and get out there and just have a go.

“That’s really important for us as well”.

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.


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