Joe Thompson: Rochdale midfielder says he must build himself up 'as a man' after cancer
Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson says he must build himself up "as a man" before he can build himself back up as a footballer after recovering from cancer for a second time.
Thompson, 28, was first diagnosed with nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma in 2013, while playing for Tranmere, and was given the all-clear the year after.
"I'm in a better condition than I was six weeks ago," Thompson told the BBC.
After his second diagnosis, Thompson stopped playing football, but he is now cancer-free following a course of chemotherapy and stem cell replacement at Christie's Hospital in Manchester.
"I've been out of hospital five weeks. Obviously it was an intense chemotherapy treatment that I had to go through, but I'm feeling a lot better," he said.
"When I got out of hospital it was walk, then it was jog and now it's getting to a run. First of all I've got to build myself up as a man, before I can build myself up again as a footballer. But that will all happen in due time."
"It wasn't guaranteed I would be alive"
Thompson began his career as a trainee with the club and has also had spells with Tranmere, Bury and Carlisle before returning in the summer of 2016.
He last played for Dale in their 2-2 draw against MK Dons on 11 March and is targeting a return for his hometown club after beating the disease for a second time.
"You have to strip it back and think clear. It wasn't so much 'I can't wait to get back on the pitch', as it wasn't guaranteed I would be alive," Thompson said.
"First and foremost, it was about living in the moment. I would cherish the time I was spending with my family.
"I'm feeling a lot brighter in myself and my energy levels are on the up.
"In a weird way I'm fortunate that I've had to go to such a dark place to see the light.
"I'm blessed I've come out the other end and can talk about it openly, because I know that so many people aren't as fortunate as me. It's kind of a lesson learned."