EX-St Helens Town legend Joe Paladino has revealed he is battling thyroid cancer.
Joe, who kept goal for the non-league side during their late 1980s pomp, expects to undergo radiation therapy within weeks.
He was diagnosed in March after going to doctors complaining of coming down with a succession of chest infections.
And in a doubly cruel blow, his diagnosis comes nine years after his first wife Kay died from a blood clot which developed while she battled cervical cancer.
“When the doctors first told me I don’t mind admitting I cried,” said the 45-year-old, who runs Sutton Boxing Academy.
“I know that will surprise a lot of people but I’m one of those people who never though it would happen to them.
“Once I’d composed myself, my first question was: ‘How long have I got to live?’. The doctors were really good and they just said to me: ‘Joe, it doesn’t work like that; this is treatable’.”
He is now waiting on the results of a scan to find out if he needs radiation therapy.
“The doctors say it’s more than likely I’ll have to have radiation but I’m just hoping I’m one of these lucky sorts who’ll avoid it,” said the dad-of-four.
Joe, who also enjoyed a successful boxing career as a heavyweight after hanging up his boots, first feared something was wrong when he went down with a succession of chest infections.
Doctors blamed stress and proscribed antibiotics until Joe demanded tests to find the cause of the problem.
Joe went on: “I have always been fit and healthy - I don’t drink or smoke, I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me.
“It’s my children I’m worried about. My three eldest lost their mother at a young age. This has been hard for them but my prognosis is good and I’m just going to keep going.”
Joe, who is from Sutton, has received messages of support from friends across the football and boxing world, and has had help from closer to home.
“My son’s friend’s dad also has thyroid cancer so he has been telling me what to expect; he has been incredible,” he said.
“Then on the day of my diagnosis I bumped into Steve Prescott in the hospital. You look at what he has done and it is inspirational. I am determined to fight this.”