|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
It was only a 15 minute cameo, but for Australian striker Dylan Tombides it was the first step towards getting back to what he does best.
The Perth-born teenager made his return to action for the West Ham academy side against Queens Park Rangers this week as he continues his recovery testicular cancer.
It was the 19-year-old's first match in more than five months and what makes the Australia youth international story even more extraordinary is he is still having weekly chemotherapy sessions to fight the illness.
"It had been five months since I last played when I made my first team debut against Wigan Athletic, so it was a great feeling to get back out there," Tombides said.
"I was more interested in seeing how I would get on fitness-wise than how I performed, to be honest, and I was really pleased because I felt I could have lasted a lot longer.
"I played wide on the left, which is a bit more of a defensive role than I'm used to, but it was great for my fitness so I've got no complaints.
"When I first got the ball, I tried to nutmeg someone on the edge of my own penalty area and lost the ball, so my first contribution wasn't the best."
No one at the Hammers was complaining, however, just happy to see Tombides getting back on his feet.
The hard-working striker, who made his first-team debut in a League Cup clash with Wigan last year, has shown enormous character and determination to work his way back into the club's development squad.
"I train every day with the Development Squad or, when required, with the first-team squad, apart from Fridays, when I have two hours of treatment at the hospital," Tombides said.
"At present, I have two hours of intravenous chemotherapy in total every week. I go into the hospital and have one bag of chemo that lasts one hour, then they take it off and clean out all the tubes. I then have a second bag that lasts half an hour, so it takes about two hours in total.
"It makes me feel terrible but it is something that I have got to do. I then have Saturdays off and return to training on the Sunday or the Monday, depending on when the boys are in."
Having got a taste of playing again against QPR, Tombides is now desperate to continue to build up his fitness to finish the season as strong as he can.
"I'm now in the final week of a 12-week training programme to get me ready to play again, so I am actually a week ahead of schedule," he said.
"I have missed playing and everything else around it - the banter in the dressing room, getting nervous before kick-off, scoring and celebrating goals - so to get back on the pitch was brilliant.
"Now, I'm hoping to be available for every game, as long as I'm selected by the manager."