Mickey Thomas: Sir Alex Ferguson inspires ex-Manchester United star in cancer fight
Former Manchester United and Wales star Mickey Thomas says a message from Sir Alex Ferguson helped him through his cancer treatment.
Thomas is in complete remission just months after being told he had only a 30% chance of surviving.
The 65-year-old says ex-United boss Ferguson was one of many who helped him after he was diagnosed.
"He was saying to me: 'You are a tough little boy, you are a fighter and you will get over it'," Thomas said.
"That was amazing, a big lift to me. He is a great man.
"I had a phone call which I didn't answer - it was a private number. Then I got a text from Sir Alex and I phoned him.
"To get that phone call and that text - which I have kept by the way - is great.
"I have had so many people get in touch, the likes of Bryan Robson, Graeme Sharp and Kevin Ratcliffe.
"They have all been fantastic to me. I have had a massive boost from all of them."
Legendary manager Ferguson, 77, needed emergency surgery in 2018 after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
"As I talk I am smiling to myself because he is one of the greatest managers of all time, he has had a lot of things happen to him as well and he has come through that very well," Thomas told BBC Sport Wales.
"He said mentally, if you get that right, you can fight it.
"Then I saw him at the United-Chelsea game (in August) in the executive box. He said I was looking well and doing great.
"He mentioned again about the mental side of it. He said if you can get over that, that is the biggest battle of all. I think I have done that fairly well."
Thomas had felt unwell for more than a year before his cancer was spotted in January.
"I couldn't swallow," he explained. "I went to the doctor on numerous occasions. I had blood tests.
"They couldn't detect anything, but I had all the symptoms for cancer of the oesophagus. That's what I had.
"When I went to hospital for X-rays, I had a very large tumour which was there for a very considerable amount of time.
"I didn't even think about having cancer because I was so fit. I would walk and run every day.
"I got there in the nick of time because a little bit later and they said I would have had no chance."
Thomas had a 20-year career in which he played for the likes of United, Wrexham, Everton, Brighton & Hove Albion, Stoke City, Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion, Derby County and Leeds United.
The 51-cap winger was visited on the day of his diagnosis by former team-mate and best friend Joey Jones.
"He had left the hospital thinking I was fine that night," Thomas said.
"Then they came in and said they couldn't get the camera down me because I had a blockage.
"I said: 'What do you mean, a blockage?'. They said it is a large tumour and it doesn't look very good for you. Out of 100 people, only 30 make it.
"I had to inform my children which was very difficult. I couldn't tell them on the phone - I was too scared.
"I thought I would get back home and act normal, like I was having a bit of fun because I didn't want them to realise I was in a bad situation. I was joking, saying I will be fine. That was the most difficult time."
Thomas had a six-and-a-half hour operation in May in which his ribs had to be broken in order to remove the tumour.
"The week before I couldn't even swallow any water," he added.
"I said that to the surgeon and he said that's why we have to operate - another month and you wouldn't be here."
A GoFundMe page set up to support Thomas raised more than £23,000.
"I can't thank everyone but I wish I could," he said.
"It's been incredible. It could have gone on and on but I had to stop it - I have closed it down. I am back on my feet now and I have got to fight my own battles.
"People are so warm and so kind. They show so much love towards you - it's amazing. I don't mind admitting I have cried a few times."
Thomas is determined to get back to being his "happy go lucky" self despite being given no guarantee the cancer will not return.
Having recently had his last round of chemotherapy, he will be examined again in six months' time and then on an annual basis.
Thomas concedes the trauma of the last nine months has changed his outlook.
"I am thankful now I can get out of bed and walk down the road because at one time I thought I would never be able to do that again," Thomas said.
"That morning I drove from my home to the operating theatre in Wrexham looking back to north Wales and thinking: 'Will I ever come back?'. That's how scary it was from me."