In part one of our interview, Shaun Greatbatch chats to Alex Moss about his battle against cancer and how it changed his career in darts
It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we saw Shaun Greatbatch reach the semi-finals of the BDO World Championship.
In the 10 years that followed since the run to the last four at Lakeside, Greatbatch’s life has encountered plenty of changes.
On this week, eight years ago, the former England international was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Greatbatch received the all clear after his treatment to beat the illness, but his darts career would never be the same again.
“It was devastating,” he recalls. “I was having back problems off and on, different pains going on in my body and I was going to different osteopaths, doctors and physios.
“This went on for six to eight weeks. I missed a couple of tournaments and then I went to the Welsh Open. I couldn’t play but I managed to get some points before I had to retire.
“I had to get a sick note because I couldn’t work. The doctor said ‘while you’re here Shaun we’ll have another blood test.’
“I done that and at 6 o’clock that night the doctor is banging on my door saying you’ve got to get yourself to hospital.
“I said ‘I can’t go to hospital.’ I hadn’t had a shave for four or five days. She said ‘don’t worry about that. If you don’t get yourself there I’m going to call an ambulance.’
“So I said ‘all right then just left me have a shave!’ I had a shave and the missus took me to hospital. It was another week before they diagnosed what it was.
“I didn’t know really too much about what I was going to be facing with the treatment, or what was going to happen with the effects of it and what I would and wouldn’t be able to do. I just tried to remain positive for my wife and my boy.”
As a result of the treatment, Greatbatch lost all of his hair, weighed two stone lighter and dropped four inches in height. At the start of 2009, in one of the bravest acts in the history of the sport, Greatbatch played in the World Championship at Lakeside.
After losing to John Walton in the first round, he left the stage to a guard of honour made up of players, officials, referees and former World Championship finalist Dave Whitcombe.
“I lost 18 months and the game moved on. I didn’t have the energy to catch up”
“The Lakeside gave me a push,” he said. “The main reason I never got back into it was because I was told to look after my liver and kidneys. I couldn’t play darts without a drink so I thought I’d give that a miss and give myself a chance.
“I lost 18 months and the game moved on. I didn’t think I had the energy or the enthusiasm to fight and catch up again. These top dart players don’t do anything else. There’s so much I wanted to do.
“There was a lot more to life than playing darts. I was all right at it and I made a few quid, but there was other things I wanted to do.
“I’m now qualified to run any construction site in the country. I work for a large, drywall company in East Anglia and that’s pushing my career on.
“It’s weird how your life changes. I just take it in my stride really. It’s something I’ve had to do obviously because I lost my darts income.
“It’s nice to be remembered. It’s now years since I packed up but people don’t forget.
“I had some good times. I won a few tournaments, hit the nine darter and played for England as well. I didn’t have a bad run.”
Next week: In part two, Shaun delves closer into his darts career and chats about hitting the historic first live televised nine darter, representing his country and his run in the 2006 World Championship