Claye Beams was enjoying a solid pre-season and was keen to nail his spot in the Brisbane Lions senior team when he received the news that no one wanted to hear.
The then 22-year-old was focused on returning from a knee reconstruction that wiped-out his 2013 season when he was confronted with a stark reality shortly after leaving the field.
“I remember it as clear as day. I finished a pre-season session at Coorparoo on a Wednesday afternoon and I had missed calls from my siblings, mum and dad,” Beams told Aflplayers.com.au.
“My heart immediately sank and I knew when I jumped into my car that something was wrong. I had a message from Dayne telling me to call dad as soon as I could, so I rang him straight away and he told me he had been to the doctors and was diagnosed with bowel cancer.”
Beams said there weren’t many positives to take out of the initial diagnosis but his father, Phillip, has managed to pull through.
“The diagnosis was pretty confronting because they try to prepare you for the worst and not fill you with any false hope. So early on it was pretty tough, dad had the surgery and was only meant to go for a few hours but ended up being around seven hours long due to the size and progression of the tumour which had mangled itself up into a few of his inside parts.
“He went into the operation at weighing 76kg and spent two weeks in hospital after and came out weighing 61kg. He’s not a big man at all and for him to lose 15kg in that time made him look like literally skin and bones. Seeing your old man like that isn’t nice.
“My heart immediately sank and I knew when I jumped into my car that something was wrong” – Claye Beams
“So it wasn’t looking great for him. Fortunately enough he had the operation and chemotherapy and so far so good which is pretty lucky.”
That 12-month period was a difficult one for the Beams clan, especially when Dayne was based in Melbourne and unable to spend much-needed time with the family.
Claye believes his brother’s decision to leave Collingwood and move home was purely based on wanting to be with his family again while they were unsure of how much time their father had left.
“Our old man is a country boy who keeps to himself a fair bit, so that meant we were playing the middle man to Dayne when he was in Melbourne and my sister was down there as well at the time.
“It was tough. We all wanted to be there for dad and be together with him but that just wasn’t possible because he was in the middle of playing a season with Collingwood.
“We stuck together as best we could. It happened before the season started but I don’t think Dayne had thought about leaving until partway through the year. He would’ve felt like he needed to be home to be with dad when he started losing weight and getting sick and couldn’t really do much for himself.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries and so has Dayne but things like this put life into perspective. Footy is not the be all and end all.
“It outlines just how important family is and how easily family time can get lost within the everyday struggle that is life.”
When the Brisbane players sat down to decide where to make their first AFL Players Care donation, the group believed the Jodi Lee Foundation, where Claye and Dayne are involved as ambassadors, was the perfect cause.
The Jodi Lee Foundation aims to prevent bowel cancer – a disease that claims a life every two hours in a country that has one of the highest rates worldwide.
“It’s an important cause that we’ve seen first hand. We need to raise the awareness of bowel cancer because 90 per cent of cases are curable if detected early, so the early detection is the key to beating it,” Beams said.
“It’s one of the most treatable and curable cancers if detected early. We need to get the message out there to get your testing done so it’s at the forefront of people’s minds.
“If we can put it out there and change thinking processes on bowel cancer then that’s all we can hope for.
“Early detection will give yourself a chance to survive, so don’t be silly, swallow your pride and get the check-ups.”
And an update on Phil – he’s going a little too well.
“He’s all right nowadays. The cancer hasn’t come back which is great so far. He’ll have his challenges in life but he’s less stubborn these days.
“He’s also packed the kilos back on and some more, and he’s back at work now which he isn’t too happy about.”
To find out more about AFL Players Care, click HERE
More than half of the 18 AFL clubs have distributed AFL Players Care funds, with several others expected to announce their preferred causes in coming weeks.