At the age of 25, a few months after having a formidable World Cup with Spain, Virginia Torrecilla (Cala Millor, Mallorca; 1994) he took the biggest club of his life. In May 2020, he had to operate on a head tumor and then underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Cancer treatment left her exhausted. The Atlético midfielder, who previously weighed 63 kilos, is at 48. “I have legs that look like arms,” she jokes. After the surgery, with his head bandaged by stitches, Torrecilla made public that he suffered from the disease and avoided making it a taboo. Since then, he has been telling about his evolution on social networks: hair loss, his mood, the desire to kick the ball again, his recovery.
At the beginning of March she finished the treatment, but she had to be re-admitted to the hospital because her defenses were down. “I thought it would never end,” he says. Now she is healthy, without a trace of the disease. In an interview with EL PAÍS this Wednesday, Torrecilla recounted how hard the chemotherapy was and how he suffered for his family.
Question. How are you after ten months of illness?
Answer. I’m feeling much better. Monday made a month of the last [sesión de] chemotherapy. I’m going up, I’m eating better and wanting to get back on the field and touch the ball, which is what I miss the most.
P. Are you still training in the gym?
R. Yes, but now I am on a mini-vacation at home to recover because I have lost a lot of weight. They have to raise my defenses a little more because I had been with chemotherapy for a long time.
P. How did your day-to-day with the disease change?
R. Changed a lot. Despite doing radiotherapy, I trained, I was fine, I was strong, I ran… But with chemotherapy, even sport was not enjoyable. I quit because it made me very tired. It has been a short process, seven months of chemotherapy, but very intense. I notice that I am better every day, but during these last two months I have been quite bad.
P. For five months he combined chemotherapy and sports.
R. Yes, I could do it perfectly two days a week. But in the end, when I had ten or twelve chemo, my marrow was already noticing it, it was difficult for me to recover. I always did [ejercicios de] strength to continue to have muscle, but there was a moment when my body no longer reacted because I was tired. The last two months I stopped doing sports. I couldn’t run anymore, I didn’t go to the sports city with my teammates. I lost too many kilos to do the same as before.
P. How much weight did you lose?
R. You do not see me because I dress wide, but I have lost many kilos, almost 15. And the first thing that goes is the muscle. What I want now is to eat well because during the chemo I was not doing it. When I finished it I had a hard time eating. Little by little I am gaining kilos. The last time I weighed myself I was 48, and I’m usually 63. I have legs that really look like arms.
P. Did sport help you disconnect? Did it work as catharsis?
R. For me, sport has been my salvation. Doctors also told me that sport made my body feel better. I tried until I couldn’t take it anymore [por la quimioterapia]. It freed me from everything.
P. Did he touch the ball so as not to lose touch?
R. Yes, when I was going for a walk with my mother and Silvia Meseguer [compañera de equipo] I was with the ball and we gave passes. I’ve always been with the ball, at home, tapping …
P. What helped you the most? What did he hold on to?
R. What most was my family, my loved ones, my friends, the people who have written to me telling me about their experiences, that everything had turned out well. That made me get the strength to keep going.
P. After the operation, he said that he suffered from cancer and avoided making it a taboo.
R. I don’t remember if I was clear before that I wanted to tell it, what I do know is that when I had surgery it was the first thing I did. It was to say: “I have to tell it, I have to make it public because I am a public person and tomorrow my club is going to make it public.” He did not want them to find out from a letter from Atlético. I had to tell my followers, all the people who loved me and it’s the best thing I did.
P. He always sent a message of optimism, that he was going to get out of that.
R. Of course. Four days before the operation I was running on the treadmill and doing everything normal, and ten days later I find myself freshly operated. All I wanted to say was that we don’t know what could happen tomorrow, that they will enjoy it and that of course they get out of difficult situations with optimism and with the people who love you around.
P. Have you discovered something that you did not do before?
R. I have become very fond of reading, I already read a lot, but more with so much free time. And also to write. I like very much. It was something I only did when it was wrong and now I do it more often.
P. What have you read?
R. I’m reading a lot, but I follow people who have had cancer a lot, like Sara Carbonero or Dani Rovira. I feel identified with them because they always say things about living, about taking advantage of life. That’s what touched me the most.
Torrecilla had surgery on the tumor without telling her older sister, Isabel, who was pregnant and was going to give birth in a month. He went with his parents to Pamplona for surgery. When she called her, she told her it was going to be the cruciate ligament. Her sister was scared, she asked why they had lied to her saying they were in the family’s country house, but in the end she was calm. After the operation, Isabel called again, saw the bandage on her head and began to cry her eyes out. Virginia then explained what was happening: she had been operated on for a brain tumor, she didn’t know if she had anything else, but she was fine. “He got terrible, he said he preferred to know the truth. A ruckus! But I couldn’t tell her, it was her first pregnancy and she would have had a very bad time ”.
P. Was the worst part seeing your family suffer?
R. I always say that my parents and my family have suffered more than I have. One of the hardest moments was when I told my mother and she went home to tell my father. And, above all, when they came to the hospital and I was in bed and began to cry. I told them that I was fine, not to worry, that I only had a headache and that I had surgery on Monday. It was very hard. I saw them cry and I did not cry for them, but I did not want to.
P. What would you say to a person who goes through the same thing?
R. I would tell her to take it with optimism, to surround herself with good people, positive people and people who love her. My friends have been, but my family is above all. Thanks to my parents, brothers, cousins and uncles I have come out of this.
P. Have you been able to watch football?
R. I have seen more football than before! He had more time and watched almost all the games. There I did see the mistakes my team made. When you are inside you do not notice it, but when you are outside you do. I think I have learned a lot. This disease has taught me many things and I have to stay with the positive.
P. When will he see her play again? Her team, with the tough season it has been in, is waiting for her like May water.
R. It’s been a very difficult season for Atlético, but we’ve had a lot of injuries. We are recovering. I have been through an illness for many months, without really training. I have not stepped on a field for nine months, without playing a game, so I have to go little by little, recover and think about next season. I wish I could debut now, but I have to look out for myself, for the injuries and recover to be my best, which is what matters.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.