'I Thought, ‘Bloody Hell, I Can Feel A Lump’ - England Coach On Dealing With Cancer

Top 50 coach Lysa Jones shares her experience to raise awareness and to encourage others to get checked

Lysa Jones
(Image credit: Future)

Lysa Jones is one of the leading coaches in the game and is part of Graham Walker's academy team at The Oaks near York. She currently coaches the England Under 18 boys' side and is one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 coaches. In 2019 she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer which was successfully treated after a lumpectomy, followed by radiotherapy and medication. 

Here she shares her story...

'I had been feeling tired for a long time if I am honest but you’d just ignore it as I was working long hours. It was running up to the North of England county match week in the middle of June and I went to the doctor and I explained that something didn't feel right. They said they would put me on anti-depressants and HRT. So, anyway, I wasn’t really happy with that and I said I would sort it myself.  

Then I had a really bad cold, couldn’t get out of bed and I also had a cough. Covid wasn’t out then but it was symptoms like that, then I booked an appointment with a female doctor and she said that they would run a few blood tests. And then really weirdly, she looked down my ear and touched the side of my throat and my glands were swollen. She said that I might be a bit run down and could I come back in a couple of days?  

I explained that I was away with Yorkshire and she told me to come back the Monday after the matches. I missed the practice session as I couldn’t get out of bed. I rang the captain and apologised and she asked if we should get another coach? And I was like, no! So I rested and turned up on the Monday and everyone commented how ill I was looking. I was coughing, tired and pale.

On the Wednesday I was in the shower and all I could remember was the doctor saying that my glands were swollen, and for some reason, and I’ve no idea why to this day, I started to examine myself. And I thought, ‘bloody hell, I can feel a lump’.  I thought don’t worry, it will go tomorrow. Crack on, as a coach, as you do, you've got a job to do. But the following day it was still there. So, I put it to one side as I had a job to do and keen for us to win the county week, which we did! I didn’t mention any of this to the players or county captain. My sister was rushed into hospital with a suspected appendicitis so my emotions were all over the place but I made sure that I kept this away from my players.

So I have a three-hour car journey home and I knew that I had a little issue here. I rang the doctor on the Monday morning and explained that I had found a lump, he examined me and reassured me that it didn't feel like breast cancer. He then asked if there was cancer in my family and my mum, nan and grandad had died of cancer. He asked if there was breast cancer in the family and my nan had died of it. My mum had secondary cancer that had gone to her bones, they tried to do tests but couldn’t find the primary and, after undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and died in 2009.

I had a mammogram, which I'd never had before because I wasn’t of the age, I also had an ultrasound scan. I had both breasts examined and I was informed that I had a cyst on one breast but they wanted to do a biopsy of the other one – all of a sudden it dawned on me that it could be cancer. 

Lysa Jones

(Image credit: Future)

I was called in to see the consultant and there was a Macmillan nurse present and you think ‘why is she in here?’ They said they were concerned about the right breast. So I said ‘you’re telling me it is cancer?’ and she just repeated herself. And I repeated, ‘is it cancer?’ and she replied that she couldn't tell me that everything was going to be alright because it might not be. And that was it. So I stood up and walked away.  And I remember her saying ‘I can’t tell you everything is going to be alright, because it might not be.’ I was thinking, it’s cancer. It was a difficult day anyway because it was 10 years to the day that I had lost my mum to cancer, July 11 2009. 

I got in the car and I’m in bits. I spoke to my sister and I’m crying and then I got a phone call from one of my players, Ellise Rymer, and I thought I can’t handle this call. And I thought, no, I’ve got to answer it. She told me that she had just won the Lincolnshire county championship. Twenty minutes later Daniel O'Loughlin rang to say that he had won the Walton Heath Trophy. It was such a bizarre day, these players had no idea what I'd just been told and I was so happy for them but so terrified for myself. 

I had Stage 2 breast cancer and I had radiotherapy every day for three weeks, I didn't have any chemo, and I still worked. With radiotherapy they give you a set time every day and mine was two o’clock. It took me an hour to get to the hospital and I made sure that I was still working and that I was still that happy, jolly Lysa Jones when I was taking any lessons. Nobody knew what I was going through.

I was OK with the radiotherapy. They say that the radiotherapy can make you tired but I was quite fit because I started cycling before my operation and I made sure that I cycled pretty much every day, just to get me through the radiation. There is a horrible process that they don’t tell you, that you are going to go through. It is operation, radiotherapy and then you take tamoxifen for five years of your life. So I’m still on it and I have to have it every day.

Now I feel absolutely fantastic and I'm living every day as it comes, as you would when you’ve had this type of diagnosis. I’m still the same Lysa Jones as I was in 2019; I have a strong work ethic, I’m still extremely busy as a coach and I would like to think that I am now a sounding board for anyone who is going through it. I just want to get the message out there that there is success from cancer treatment. When you hear the word cancer it can be like a death sentence but it really doesn’t have to be.'

Lysa Jones
Top 50 Coach

Location: The Walkers Golf Academy 

Lysa is a senior coach at Graham Walker’s golf academy in Yorkshire. She is widely regarded as the leading female coaching elite golf in the UK and Ireland and the former LET players has been included in a 19-strong group of women – across various sports - identified by UK Sport as having the potential to coach at the 2024 Olympics and beyond. 

A typical lesson: 

How do you begin, what comes next, and how do you close your lesson? It depends on a player's level of ability but 80 per cent of my players are at elite level so therefore I would ask open-ended questions, approaching every situation with curiosity and armed with questions that provide me with answers. I’m looking for the player to engage and articulate what is happening in his/her game and their characteristics – so what's their objective for today’s coaching session or what one skill do they want to improve that day? I like to understand the player first, their needs and ambitions, build up a rapport, set one or two objectives, listen to their description, repeat to confirm paint their picture. Closure would be confirming what is required and asking the player what they’ve learnt? 

Students learn best when… 

You involve them and they engage with you.

Greatest teacher:

Graham Walker, I’ve worked with him for 17 years. The way he communicates, engages and gets the player to respond.

I admire his coaching skills and the way he articulates his beliefs in what works – demonstrates extremely well – a great mentor to me throughout the years.