A TEENAGER who is battling testicular cancer has been given a birthday present to remember - the chance to meet his footballing heroes.
Blackburn Rovers fan David McLoughlin turned 18 on Wednesday and to celebrate will meet manager Mark Hughes and the squad at noon today, before being chauffeur driven to Ewood Park to see the team's encounter with Manchester United tomorrow (Sat).
The weekend has been organised by the Willow Foundation, a charity which arranges and funds days for seriously ill young adults.
David, who grew up on Queen Street, Clayton-le-Moors, and attended Accrington's Moorhead Sports College, said: "I'm absolutely buzzing about the whole weekend. I'm just really pleased and really grateful that someone has given me the opportunity to go to the match and meet the players."
David was diagnosed with cancer in August and had an emergency operation to have his left testicle removed a month later.
He has since developed secondary cancer in his abdomen and lungs, meaning he has had to endure further chemotherapy. He is currently awaiting test results to see if any more treatment is necessary.
"It has been absolutely terrible for me," he said. "It has been a long, hard journey. You never expect anything like this to happen to you. At the moment I'm just glad the treatment is over for the time being and I'm trying to feel positive about the future."
David moved to Torquay with his mother Tina McCarthy and brother in 2004 and said he was looking forward to getting back up north, especially because he longs for his favourite local delicacy.
"I really miss Holland's pies," he said. "The pies are rubbish down here. I'm looking forward to getting back up there, to see my family and all that. It's not bad down here, it's just not the same as being up North."
Mum Tina, a 38-year-old support worker, will fly up from Exeter to Manchester with him today. She has been caring for David with the help of her partner during the last six months.
She said: "It's been hard, really difficult but we've all stuck together, and it's been David's sense of humour through all this that has kept us all going. We've had our ups and downs but we're really hopeful about the future."