Caroline Larsson: Exclusive Interview, Part OneDecember, 2014
Mark Townsend meets the remarkable and inspirational Swede. Part one of two.
The plan for Caroline Larsson at the start of the 2011 season was to join her younger sister Louise on the Ladies’ European Tour.
Then the year very quickly turned on its head. In February the two sisters, Caroline was caddying for her rookie sibling at the New Zealand Open, were caught in the middle of the Christchurch earthquakes the day after the tournament and had to flee for a local park as the city centre buildings collapsed around them.
On March 5 she then had surgery to remove a cancerous tumour before returning for a check-up to be told that there were five malignant tumours in her right thigh.
Chondrosarcoma is a word, thankfully, most people will never have to discover the meaning of. For Caroline it meant that her leg, from just above the knee, would have to be amputated.
Plenty of us would melt away into a world of self pity and anger, Larsson is now back playing competitive golf in Sweden, and making cuts, and inspiring thousands of others. At the recent Solheim Cup ’One Year To Go’ event she hit balls off the Heidelberg Bridge alongside Paula Creamer. Here she tells her remarkable story in her own words..
I really didn’t have any pain before but I was getting tired in one leg. I remember caddying for my sister at La Manga in 2010 and I was so tired and, looking back, this was the start that something was wrong.
The knee would be very swollen after I did some hard training so I would have to rest it for a few days but it wasn’t that painful. I thought I just needed to listen to my body and rest.
I went to see my doctor and had a biopsy in 2010 and it took a while before they diagnosed that it was chondrosarcoma cancer.
In Sweden 350 people get some sort of sarcoma each year and, of those, 10 per cent get osteosarcoma and one per cent get chondrosarcoma. I was told that this type couldn’t be treated by chemotherapy or radiation and I was told that the only option was to remove the leg above the knee.
My first reaction was that my life was over and that there was nothing left to live for. I couldn’t imagine my future like that and I had so many questions, I hadn’t seen anyone with one leg.
I was told that it was pretty aggressive and they would have to amputate within three weeks so I started to prepare for it mentally and to say goodbye to this life on two legs.
I had a swing and I realised that the passion that I had as an eight year old was still there. That was my instant answer as to how I was going to deal with life. I did everything one last time to appreciate it; I went to London and didn’t buy a Metro card as I wanted to walk everywhere.
When I looked down and saw one leg it wasn’t that much of a shock as I had told my brain so often what it would look like. The pain I could never prepare for. I had phantom pains where the leg was for four days afterwards but I haven’t had them since, probably because of my mental preparation.
Five days after my surgery I went to the gymnastic room in the hospital and found a golf club so I had a swing and I realised that the passion that I had as an eight-year-old when I started playing was still there. That was my instant answer as to how I was going to deal with life. I found a tournament two and a half months away and that was my personal goal.
Click here for part two of our interview with Caroline Larsson.