Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov today said he was lucky to be alive as he continues his brave battle with leukaemia. The 33-year-old also paid tribute to his family and supporters on a visit to the West Midland club's Bodymoor Heath Training Ground.
The club's captain was diagnosed with the disease in March last year and has undergone intensive bouts of chemotherapy treatment. A year later and he is now in remission and is positive about "getting back to my life".
"It was a very, very long year but now, after all this treatment, I can go back to a normal life," Petrov said. "I have finished all of the high intensity treatment and from now on I'll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets.
"I can start doing things that I couldn't do in the last year. I can take the kids to school, I can come here (to the training ground), I can start doing a bit of work and losing a little bit of weight. It's been a long year for me and the support from all the fans, from the club, from the players, has been amazing.
"I've been saying that every time I have had the chance to say a few words but I'm glad that this hard year is behind me now and I can concentrate on getting back to my life."
Petrov admitted he did not know much about the treatment for the disease before it started but he now realises he has made an amazing recovery.
He said: "I didn't know how long it would go on for, what would happen and things like that. While the treatment was going on I was surprised how long things were dragging on, it kept dragging and I kept thinking: 'When is this going to finish?' but with a lot of patience and a lot of support from family and friends and everybody I managed to pull through.
"I had my hard moments but I had good moments as well. I can say I'm lucky because some people with this disease will die very quickly and I managed to keep battling and still be here, still standing. It's really good, that's a great thing."
The former Celtic midfielder Petrov was also quick to thank fans and the club for their support.
"I don't know how I can thank the fans because it's been incredible," the Bulgaria international said. "Sometimes I have a joke with some friends when they text me saying: 'You've still got that applause in the 19th minute, when are they going to stop?!' But it's been incredible. I've got a great wife, a strong, great wife and she's been unbelievable, incredible in this journey. The kids as well, my mum and dad, my brother, my wife's mum, they've all been so strong and close beside me.
"To have support every single day from people who have their own problems and their own life but they keep finding the time to send you a message or call you, it's just unbelievable."
But Petrov is still taking each day at a time, although he is concentrating on doing more charitable work to raise awareness about leukaemia.
"It's a long treatment and I'm in remission now which is very good," Petrov said. "The tests are coming back good which is very good to hear but with this kind of disease it takes time, you need to wait to say you're clear and things like that. I don't think about it, I take each step at a time.
"It's really funny how something like this can unite people. I'm hoping to open my foundation soon and I'm going to start raising money and awareness for leukaemia and different charities and I'm in the process of doing this at the moment. I hope to start as soon as possible."