A COUPLE of weeks ago RFL communications manager John Ledger asked me to pen 700 words for Saturday’s Wembley programme describing what it was like to help Steve Prescott write his story.
Well I could have done that in six, with the words ‘The biggest privilege of my career’ coming to mind.
In August 2007 Foundation secretary Martin Blondel rang me and explained that Steve wanted to write his autobiography. Less than a year previously, in September, Steve had been diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of abdominal cancer that affects one in a million people. Nobody would have predicted then what a remarkable story of courage and fighting back was about to unfold.
We got our heads together, sketched up a plan and worked out that it would take about six months to write a volume encompassing Steve’s early days, his rugby career and coming to terms with terminal cancer.
The fact that the book has taken seven years to write and is only being launched this week has more to do with the way Steve tackled his illness than the slowness of our writing skills.
Year after year, repeated drafts of the book have been written, revised and, just as it neared completion, another challenge would appear on the horizon and space for another few chapters would be needed, with another few thousand words chopped.
The book changed from that initial manuscript essentially because Steve himself changed as a person — the remarkable way he fought cancer, raised money for charity and inspired others was part of that transformation.
Readers will pick up One in a Million and very quickly realise that it is not a ghost-written effort — Steve’s voice pours off every page until the last two chapters, when Linzi takes up the story.
Initially I needed a sheet of 25 pre-researched questions every week to tease out his views and get them down on paper, but I quickly realised that all I needed was to point him in the right direction and he would be away. His razor-sharp brain, memory and attention to detail helped tell the tale, as did his straight-talking approach and sense of humour.
I have never met anybody like Steve and doubt I ever will. He was a lovely fella, an inspiration, a Saint in every sense of the word, and it was one of the privileges of my life to know him, let alone work with him.
Steve Prescott truly was One in a Million.