Brave smile of the Premier League footballer whose super-athletic body has been utterly transformed by cancer
Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed last year after feeling tired and run downHad an acute form of the illness, meaning his survival chances were 50/50
Now in remission after chemotherapy and will take medication for two years Having learned more about his condition, says he is 'lucky to be alive'

. He complained of feeling
lethargic afterwards and was given the diagnosis a few weeks later after
tests.

Happy Birthday: Stiliyan Petrov has revealed he is on the road to recovery following his battle with leukaemia

Happy Birthday: Stiliyan Petrov has revealed he is on the road to recovery following his battle with leukaemia

Salute: Petrov acknowledges the Villa Park crowd, who show their support by applauding their No 19 throughout the 19th minute of home games

Salute: Petrov acknowledges the Villa Park crowd, who show their support by applauding their No 19 throughout the 19th minute of home games

Villa
VIDEO See Villa's Stiliyan Petrov talking about his road to recovery

'I'm lucky to be alive.' Villa captain Petrov on the road to…

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As he had the acute form of the
illness, medics wanted to begin treatment immediately, his chances of
survival rated at 50-50. But he has been in remission since the start of
the season.

‘At the start I thought it was just a
cold, nothing serious — just something normal,’ he said. ‘When I was
told what exactly the diagnosis was I was a little bit shocked but I
accepted it and just wanted to start the treatment straight away. My
doctor, Richard Lovell, told me quickly that I had to start treatment. I
knew I couldn’t waste time and I had to make decisions quickly.

‘I didn’t know anything about the
disease when it happened. I didn’t know anything about the treatment,
how long it would go on for, what would happen.

‘I thought it was dragging on. I kept
thinking, “When is this going to finish” but with a lot of support and
patience from friends and family, I managed to pull through.’

Petrov said he had been humbled by the
reaction from supporters, not just from Villa and his former club
Celtic, but across Britain.

Touching: Young Villa fans hold up a message in support of their captain

Touching: Young Villa fans hold up a message in support of their captain

In action: Villa skipper Petrov playing last season before the diagnosis ruled him out of contention

In action: Villa skipper Petrov playing last season before the diagnosis ruled him out of contention

Villa owner Randy Lerner has visited
Petrov on several occasions and chief executive Paul Faulkner also
showed the human face of the club by constantly travelling to and from
London in the early stages to provide his support.

The fans’ backing has manifested
itself in a minute’s applause in the 19th minute — Petrov wore the No 19 shirt — a gesture that has received almost universal backing.

‘It’s really funny how something like
this can unite people,’ he said. ‘It’s a strange feeling but people from
all sides have been united and even teams who come to Villa Park, their
fans have joined in the minute’s applause as well.

‘It’s great to see something like
that. I hope everyone can appreciate how important it is that if
something were to go wrong for a player or a fan that they can give them
support the way they’ve supported me.

‘I don’t know how I can thank the
fans. Some people go through these diseases on their own while I have
had the support of millions around the world.’

Thoughts: Tributes to Petrov were displayed by teams around the Premier League

Thoughts: Tributes to Petrov were displayed by teams around the Premier League

Back on track: Petrov was watching Villa's 1-1 draw against Fulham, with Charles N'Zogbia's opener (above)

Back on track: Petrov was watching Villa's 1-1 draw against Fulham, with Charles N'Zogbia's opener (above)

Petrov hopes to start his own
foundation in due course. Lerner has instructed the midfielder to make sure he is recovered properly before any future position
at the club is discussed. Such is the player’s popularity that an
honorary position is likely to be a formality.

‘I’m going to live my life,’ Petrov
added. ‘Sometimes people feel sorry for you. I’m just going to keep
going and try to start picking up some work now and then.

First of all I’m going to spend some
time with my family, show them that things are back to normal and feel a
bit more comfortable. The kids especially have really missed me a lot
and they’re happy that I’m home. But most of all I want to get my life
back.’