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Former Wolves goalkeeper Vince Bartram: How a safe pair of hands saved his wife's life

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He is a former Premier League goalkeeper whose hands have netted thousands of first class saves.

Vince Bartram faced many a weekly battle during his 19-season career as a professional footballer at Wolves, Bournemouth, Arsenal and Gillingham before his playing days were ended by a serious wrist injury.

But few will know that his greatest ever save in fact took place off the pitch - when he discovered the lump in his wife's breast that turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer.

"He kept his greatest save for me – he literally saved my life" says Tracy, who together with Vince is backing Stand Up To Cancer – a joint fundraising campaign by Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to raise vital funds for research and help save more lives more quickly.

The pair have been driven to throw their support behind the campaign as one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has already raised more than £25million to fund translational research, which takes developments in the lab and transforms them into brand new tests and treatments for cancer patients.

Vince, who signed for Bournemouth in July 1991 and played more than 130 league games before he was sold to Arsenal and became David Seaman's number two, knows only too well just how crucial new discoveries and breakthroughs are to help people like his wife Tracy survive.

He said: "I'm so grateful for the treatment that saved my wife's life and I'm so proud to support Stand Up To Cancer because of her. Tracy's story shows the real power of research. We want to encourage as many people as possible to join with us and stand up to this devastating disease."

Vince and wife Tracy

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It was New Year's Day in 2010 as the couple were enjoying 'a kiss and a cuddle' when Vince came across the mass in Tracy's left breast.

The former England netballer, who lives in Bournemouth with Vince and their two sons Miles, 13 and Heath 10, said: "We were doing what husbands and wives do when he said to me "what's that?"

"I hadn't noticed it and wasn't exactly checking myself well at that point if I am honest. I made an appointment with my doctor a few days later – but I don't think I ever really believed at that stage that it would be cancer.

"I was referred to the hospital and within a couple of weeks I was having the checks, a scan and a biopsy. Then it was just a case of waiting.

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"Obviously we were both really anxious but to me there was little point in worrying and dwelling on what might be – we didn't know and we had to wait."

Tracy, 47, remembers the day clearly. Her parents had come to mind their grandsons while she and Vin, 48, who is now goalkeeping coach at Southampton Football Club's academy, returned to Bournemouth Hospital to hear the news.

She said: "I knew before we got in there what was coming because I saw the breast cancer nurse was there too.

"We were called into the room and they sat me down and told me straight: I had cancer. I was just concentrating, trying to take in everything they were saying."

Tracy was told she had Grade III triple negative breast cancer and would need chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy.

She said: "I think Vin was quite taken aback when he heard the word cancer. I was just taking it in as best I could. When they said they felt it was treatable it was such a relief.

"We came out of the hospital and we both had a few tears before we went home. I remember saying to Vin firmly "we will fix this, I will be fine" and I really believed that."

Tracy added: "We got back home and told mum and dad and there were more tears but I felt I had to be strong for them – for everyone else.

"From that moment I made a point of saying I did not want anyone coming to see me and crying and pitying me – and from that day on not one of my family or friends cried in front of me.

"Looking back now that must have been very hard for all of them because it must be hugely emotional and worrying for them.

"I think I had a very positive mind – staying focussed made it much easier to deal with. There was no way I was prepared to sit in a chair in the corner and just accept it and let cancer get the better of me."

Stand Up To Cancer is supported by a host of celebrities including Davina McCall and Alan Carr. This year's campaign culminates on Friday 21 October with a night of live TV on Channel 4 led by the brightest stars in film, TV and music.

People can also show their support for the campaign in style as a fun range of clothing and accessories for men, women and children is available online at standuptocancer.org.uk

The range includes special edition Henry Holland designed t-shirts (£9.99) hoodies (£25) pin badges (£1) wristbands (£0.99) digital watches (£2.49) and umbrellas (£2.99).

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