Stiliyan Petrov: I'm lucky to be alive after leukaemia

 

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov says he is lucky to be alive as he continues his fight against leukaemia.

The Bulgarian was diagnosed in March 2012 but is now in remission after finishing his first year of treatment.

Petrov on Villa's season

"They've kept fighting and the last several weeks they've played with great confidence and have picked up a lot of important points.

"They have a manager [Petrov's former Celtic team-mate Paul Lambert] who I know very closely. He's a good friend as well and I know how important it is for his team to improve and to win as well. These are positive things.

"There are still a lot of games to come, a lot of points to be picked up, so there's nothing to worry about."

"I've had my hard moments but I've had good moments as well. I'm lucky because some people with this disease will die very quickly," said the 33-year-old.

"I'm glad that this hard year is behind me now and I can concentrate on getting back to my life."

Petrov, who joined Villa in 2006 having spent seven years with Celtic, was back at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training ground this week.

Recalling his emotions when he first learned of his condition, he told Aston Villa's website:  "At the start I thought it was just a cold, nothing serious.

"When I was told the diagnosis, I was a little shocked but accepted it and just wanted to start the treatment straight away."

Following an intensive chemotherapy programme Petrov, who has made over 200 appearances for Villa in addition to more than 300 for Celtic, is now in remission.

"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," he said. "It was a very, very long year but now, after all this treatment, I can go back to a normal life.

"The support from all the fans, the club, the players, has been amazing."

What is leukaemia?

Leukaemia affects certain blood cells, particularly the white cells, or leukocytes, which are part of the body's defence against infection and disease.

That support extends to the Villa fans applauding Petrov in the 19th minute of every match, in recognition of the midfielder's squad number at the club.

"The 19th minute has been just incredible," he said. "It's them showing their appreciation and their support.

"I don't know how I can thank the fans because it's been incredible. Sometimes I joke with friends when they text me saying, 'You've still got that applause in the 19th minute, when are they going to stop?!'"

Asked about his plans for the future he added: "First of all I'm going to spend some time with the 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.

"I'm hoping to open my foundation soon and I'm going to start raising money and awareness for leukaemia and different charities."

Villa's 'Support Stan' campaign