Sale Sharks CEO Sid Sutton has revealed how his own cancer diagnosis was ‘the best thing that ever happened’ to him, because it forced him to address his mental health struggles.
Sid, who took over at Sale in 2019, underwent surgery and chemotherapy for testicular cancer at Manchester’s Christie hospital following his diagnosis in 2012.
And in an interview to mark the start of Movember, he said the diagnosis was a ‘welcome relief’ because it led to him sharing the anxiety that had been building up as a result of his career working in the City.
“It was a complete shock but like a typical man I kept it to myself,” said Sid. “I was extremely lucky that it hadn’t gone anywhere else and wasn’t life-threatening so I went in for an operation and that was followed up by chemotherapy.
“Life has got a way of telling you to slow down sometimes. Back then I was working in the City and covering Europe. I never took any time out and my mind was always elsewhere and then all of a sudden I decided I had had enough.
“I got placed on 12 months gardening leave which sounds delightful – I could go play golf and get myself fit but actually it was the worst time of my life. I’d been on such an adrenaline rush for such a long time and for the first time in my adult life I’d slowed down. The brain didn’t like it.
“I suffered a huge amount of anxiety but being a man I didn’t share it. I thought I’d never work again if I did and I didn’t want it on my medical records.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer it was almost a welcome relief because I could talk about the cancer and I knew I’d be looked after. My anxiety wasn’t being looked after because I couldn’t share it.
“I kept it all bottled up but I truly believe it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I learned to cope with life in a different way. I learned to share and talk and empathise.
“The last ten years have all been about mental wellbeing and I don’t know if I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t been through all of that.”
Sid joined Sharks as CEO in November 2020 and immediately set about changing the culture of the club to an ‘expressive’ one in which players, coaches and backroom staff felt empowered to share opinions.
And he wants to use his experience to help make a lasting change both inside Carrington and in the wider Sharks Family.
“I never used to speak about having cancer but that experience taught me to share and to talk,” he said. “That’s given me a huge drive and ambition to do more for people’s wellbeing and mindset and that’s engrained into what we’re doing here at Sale Sharks.
“One of the first things I did when I joined was change the culture to an expressive culture where people can speak their minds and have an opinion.
“We introduced yoga to try and connect the mind and body and we’ll continue to grow in this way as a club. Physical training is a huge part of the job but we haven’t scratched the surface yet in terms of the mindset.
“Leadership and showing vulnerability is key. Alex Sanderson is brilliant at doing that and once that happens it cascades down and becomes normal.
“Rugby is a game full of hard hits, knocks but the culture is changing and talking about mental health is much more accepted now in this environment.
“We want to win titles and trophies on the pitch and we’ve got a huge opportunity to change thousands of people’s lives off it. My biggest goal is to encourage the younger generation inside and outside the club that it’s good to talk.”
Check out Sale Sharks’ social media channels to find out how the club is supporting Movember 2022.
First team players will be growing their ‘mo’ to raise money and you can support them and the cause by donating or joining the Sharks team at https://movember.com/t/sale-sharks.