Dylan Tombides mum has opened up about the way West Ham supported her late son, and his family, throughout his tragic battle with testicular cancer.
The Hammers have retired only two numbers in their history; the number six and the number 38, the former being the old number of World Cup winner Bobby Moore, and the latter being worn, only once, by Dylan before his death.
Tombides was a talented young player who represented Australia at U23 level and came on as a substitute in 2012 to make his Irons debut.
At that point, he had already been through treatment for cancer, but he had bravely fought his way back to health, and he lived out his dream of pulling on the claret and blue at the highest level.
Only three months later, though, the cancer returned, and he was undergoing chemotherapy once more.
Since his death, his mother, Tracy, has set up the DT38 Foundation, which aims to ensure that there is early diagnoses of the disease, after Dylan’s cancer was initially misdiagnosed as being a harmless cyst.
Speaking on the Man Marking podcast, she explained: “The original diagnosis was in April 2011 and that was a year in which West Ham were struggling to stay in the league and were in a relegation battle and Dylan told me the mood around the club was a little sombre and he did not want to make it any more sombre or impose on anybody so he decided to go to a GP.
“As a 17-year-old boy, mum and dad don’t come in with him to see the doctor and the doctor told him it was just a cyst and people come in with cysts every day and it was nothing to worry about.”
His cancer was actually diagnosed while he was on Australia duty at the U17 World Cup, where he was selected for a random drug test.
She added: “I was numb for about five to ten seconds and then just went into mum mode, which was no worries leave it with me.
“I got in touch with the West Ham doctors, they turned around and organised everything for him to do on the Monday after he got back on the Friday and from Monday onwards everything was planned and ready to go.
“We got confirmation it was testicular cancer, he had his testis removed and then we started treatment as soon as we could and the whole treatment was as smooth as it could possibly be and they [West Ham] have been fantastic ever since.”
And Tracy has revealed just how special West Ham’s response was, both to his treatment and, ultimately, to his heartbreaking death.
She added: “I don’t know what we would have done without them.
“I have nothing but admiration for Karren Brady, David Sullivan and David Gold and the team below them, they reached out to us and offered us whatever the family needed.
“From the moment they brought Dylan home from Germany when he passed away, put the service on here, flew Dyan out to Australia they just took a lot of the pressure off us because we were numb.
“We just could not believe we could go from this point to this point in three years and lose a son.”
Dylan died in 2014.
Tracy goes on: “We were just numb.
“I remember flying back the next day and I rang up the team at West Ham and spoke to the Doctor and within a day they had reached out to us and said ‘we play a game on Saturday against Crystal Palace and this is what we would like to do, we would like to retire Dylan’s number, we would like Dylan’s shirt to be walked out by Jim [Dylan’s father] and Taylor [Dylan’s brother], do you think you will be able to do that? This is what we would like to do if it is okay with you?’
“The only reason we were able to do it is because we were numb, we were just going through the motions, we did not have time to fall in a heap or anything like that.
“But looking back on it I just think to myself, how special that they knew in that 24 hours that that is what they wanted to do. That this kid had made such an impression on the club and everyone at it that this 20-year-old boy was going to have his number retired.”
Dylan remains sorely missed by all at West Ham.