Stiliyan Petrov says hardest part of leukaemia fight is behind him

Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has vowed to "keep fighting" against his leukaemia.

Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March, said the past few months had been very tough.

But he said he now felt much better and, with a few more months of chemotherapy remaining, believed the "hardest bit is over".

"I am just not going to stop fighting. I have always been a fighter and I will just keep fighting," said Petrov.

Petrov, who was confirmed as club captain by new Villa manager Paul Lambert, added that he would remain patient and was confident he would recover.

"I've been a strong character since the start of my career," he told Aston Villa's official website. 

What is leukaemia?

Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. Symptoms include pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness and susceptibility to infection. Acute leukaemia means the condition progresses aggressively and needs immediate treatment.

On average 2,500 adults are diagnosed with acute leukaemia in the UK each year, according to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research

"I always believed that you need to be patient and you need to believe in things, and I believe I will get better.

"I know I've got a few more months of chemotherapy and I need to go through it, but I think that the hardest bit is over and from now on I just need to wait for the result to be positive."

Petrov visited his Aston Villa team-mates on his 33rd birthday and received a warm welcome, including a rendition of Happy Birthday.

"It is great to see the boys. I'm OK," he said.

"I had a tough three months but I'm over the hurdle at the moment.

"It is a good day and I hope I will keep receiving these messages for a few more years - a good 50 years!"

Petrov was also keen to praise Aston Villa masseurs Andy Smith and Alex Butler, who are cycling from Celtic Park to Villa Park in September to raise funds for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. 

"It is great what they are doing for the leukaemia research and for me as well," he said. "It is going to be tough for them but they have been working really hard.

"I said to them if I go in remission and I can do a bit of training I can do one of the stages with them."