Mark Selby has opened up about a terrible time off the snooker table for his family and friends, with his wife, Vikki, suffering with cancer and a close friend recently passing away due to the disease.
Selby has been dealing with his own mental health struggles in recent years, speaking publicly about them in January 2022 for the first time.
After returning to form by winning the English Open in December of the same year, the four-time world champion emotionally paid tribute to Vikki for her vital support during a tough time, but it was only shortly after that high point that Vikki was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Thankfully Vikki is recovering well, with recent test results all ‘looking good’ but there has been further sadness for the Selby family, with their close friend Nina Webb passing away at the tragically young age of 44 after initially getting the all clear for cancer but the disease returning and taking her life.
Explaining the tragedy to Metro.co.uk, Selby said: ‘I’ve had a lot going on off the table, a few lapses from what I mentioned before with my mental health.
‘We had some bad news just over a week ago. One of my best mates, Dave, his wife sadly passed away with cancer at 44. She’s got a little girl who’s 12.
‘She’s best mate to Vikki, so it’s been quite tough the last two weeks. I was playing here [Leicester] in the Grand Prix but basically just wanted to pull out of the tournament, but her husband said that she wouldn’t have wanted you to do that so carry on playing, but it’s been tough.
‘With Vikki’s treatments and scans coming up you’re obviously always a bit nervous.’
Asked how Vikki is doing, he said: ‘She’s good, she had a mammogram and ultrasound a few weeks ago and that all looked good. They gave her an MRI as well and we’re waiting on the results of that, but they were saying the mammogram and ultrasound were fine.
‘Fingers crossed that comes back ok and then that’s another year until we get a scan again, but we’re still waiting so obviously it’s still a tricky time.
‘She’s been stronger than me throughout it, for sure. When it was first announced I was completely blown apart. Obviously with how my mental health was before anyway, that multiplied it. She’s been the one supporting me! It should be the other way round, but people say that, it always seems to be the person going through it that’s the strongest.’
The circumstances of Nina’s death are heartbreaking, but her diagnosis may have ended up saving Vikki’s life as it led to her finding out she was suffering from terrible disease as well.
‘It was only because Nina had it a few years ago,’ explained Selby. ‘She got diagnosed with breast cancer, had chemotherapy, radiotherapy, got the all clear but it came back and had spread and she sadly passed away, bless her.
‘It was because of that Vikki started checking and it was in the January just after the English Open when I played Luca [Brecel]. She found it and told me then. It was carnage.
‘I was crying at the end [of the match] but I didn’t even know about Vikki’s diagnosis then, and even Nina’s, we didn’t know about her new diagnosis until I got home. So it has been tough, the last year or so.’
Snooker hardly seems of any importance during such times, but it is incredible that Selby managed to play on and reach the World Championship final last year, making a 147 in the showpiece match and only narrowly missing out on a fifth Crucible title to Brecel.
‘Vikki was going through radiotherapy while I was playing in the Worlds so in a way it did take my focus off the tournament,’ he said.
‘I was playing and thinking, “If I get beat, so what?” I said to Vikki that I wanted to be with her going through the radiotherapy but she was saying, “Look it’s only 20 minutes every day.” But I wanted to be there to support her, going through it.
‘She wanted me to play and I carried on playing. It takes the pressure off a bit, because you’re playing without a care in the world on the table, then there you are in the final.’
On Mark’s own mental health, it has clearly been severely tested, but spending a year working on it, and strategies to improve it, before Vikki’s diagnosis has helped him deal with it.
‘I’m always going to get lapses,’ he said. ‘When I was working with the doctor, who’s helped me no end, he said it will never go away, you will get moments when it comes back, it’s just about dealing with them.
‘I know how to deal with them better now. I used to switch myself off, lock myself away and not do anything. I thought that was the right thing, but I actually needed to do the opposite.
‘When I have down days I need to get myself out, go for a run, get myself motivated, but I was locking myself away. I deal with it a lot better now. I’m trying.
‘Trying to play has been hard, I was umming and ahing about taking a break, but then I’d just sit at home thinking about everything, which is no good for myself.
‘She’d prefer me out the house anyway, she’d say that herself. I’ve tried to be as supportive as possible, that’s all you can do.
‘Obviously we’ve been supportive for our friends as well, and now Nina’s sadly passed away we’re being there for Dave. It is tough but it makes you realise snooker is only a game.’
‘Playing does help because it gives me a purpose as well, I’m doing it for Vikki and [daughter] Sofia as well, to put food on the table, so I’ve got a drive to keep going for them.’
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