2001 Tour de France stage winner and former Belgian champion Serge Baguet was known as a hard-working journeyman in cycling, but eight years after his retirement from the sport he is deeply engaged in a more important fight against cancer. The 45-year-old was diagnosed at the end of last year with a malignant intestinal tumor, which was treated with surgery and chemotherapy. He admitted on the Belgian television program Zevende Dag that he continues to live in fear despite the cancer being caught before it had spread.
Baguet began his career in 1990 as a trainee with Lotto, and raced through 1996 before moving on to Collstrop and stopping altogether for four years, working as a roofer with his father-in-law. He continued training, and by 1999 was ready to come back to the sport. He re-signed with Lotto in 2000, and then on stage 17 of the Tour de France the next year, he out-sprinted Jakob Piil and Massimiliano Lelli in Montlucon to earn his most important victory on the bike.
The Belgian is hopeful that his fight against cancer will be another victory off the bike, but still has fear. "I try to remain hopeful, I've always been a fighter," he said, according to Sporza. "Yet I live with fear every day."
The ordeal began last October when he began experiencing severe abdominal pain. He underwent surgery for an inflamed diverticulum, with doctors removing a piece of his intestine and treating him for peritonitis. But five weeks later, he got a call from the doctors.
"It was not good news. There was a small but malignant tumor found between the diverticula and I had have another operation."
He also had to endure six sessions of chemotherapy. "Fortunately, there are no metastases," he asid. He encouraged the public to pay attention to what is going on in their bodies and see a doctor if there are odd changes.
"It could save your life. For me it was almost too late," he said. "I can understand that people are often afraid to learn something, but don't let it stop you."