MX23RW : Monday, July 22 20:44:10| >> :600:24031518:24031518:

Rochdale’s Joe Thompson hopes others can draw strength from his story

The 29-year-old beat cancer for the second time and scored the goal which saved the club from relegation.

Having gone from his darkest days to experiencing a “fairy tale moment” on the field last season, Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson hopes others can draw strength from his remarkable story.

The 29-year-old has overcome cancer twice since 2013, getting the all-clear after his second battle with Hodgkin lymphoma in the summer of 2017.

Thompson returned to action for Rochdale in December and went on to score the goal that saved the club from relegation from League One as they beat Charlton 1-0 in their final game of last season.

An autobiography documenting what he has been through is being released, and Thompson told Press Association Sport: “I was in hospital and started writing, but the sad thing was I started writing it in case I didn’t come out the other end.

“Thankfully for me here we are and I’ve been able to put the book together with Alec (Fenn).

“I hope it will be an inspirational story. I thought I’d be very selfish not sharing that knowledge and experience regarding the whole situation.

“I think it gives so many people so much hope and courage and strength, through any adversity.

— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) October 17, 2018

“I’m really keen to do quite a lot of motivational speaking and inspire others in all different fields, including within football.

“Cancer awareness is something I’m also very conscious of getting out there, making sure people feel comfortable talking about it.

“The ‘Big C’ does take lives, but there’s so much work being done and people are overcoming it, so why not highlight the positives and look at the success stories?

“It’s been a rollercoaster – there has been some dark days, and days when I’ve doubted whether I was going to make it through.”

Thompson, who started his professional career with Rochdale after leaving Manchester United, was with Tranmere when he was first diagnosed with the uncommon cancer Hodgkin lymphoma in the early part of 2013/14.

The following summer he announced he was in complete remission and moved on to Bury, then signed for Carlisle before rejoining Rochdale in August 2016.

Four months later, on Christmas Eve, he was told the disease had returned.

“If I could sum up the emotion in one word it was angry,” Thompson said.

“I felt like I’d done everything in my power after the first diagnosis. It was gutting and a kick in the stomach to say the least. I was heartbroken, and worried about the future – more so for my family.”

Thompson, who has a six-year-old daughter, Thailula-Lily, with his wife Chantelle, went through a more intense treatment process the second time around.

He underwent a stem cell transplant and spent time in an isolation unit, during which he says he had “physically, mentally and emotionally the toughest days of my life.”

“You go in that room and you don’t actually know if you’re ever going to come out alive,” Thompson said.

“I know how tough it can be when you are down in the dumps, literally on your knees, praying for some kind of release. Getting out was a magical day for me and my family.”

Thompson was “determined to win” against cancer and has stressed how important the support network of family and friends he had, trying to fill him with as much positivity as possible, was for him.

And with regard to Rochdale, he believes what occurred at the end of last season was “the perfect gift for all their support.”

Thompson, who has been wished well in person by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, said of his goal last term: “I was really adamant I was going to make an impact to help the club – I probably didn’t envision it being such a dramatic impact.

“It was a fairy tale moment and a dream come true. I’ll take it with me and try to share it as much as possible because I know the positive impact it has on people.

“It’s fact – I got the goal that kept Rochdale up. And I think it probably is the ultimate survival story.”

:: ‘Darkness and Light: My Story’ by Joe Thompson with Alec Fenn is released on Pitch Publishing Ltd on October 22

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