Reading Steve Prescott’s heart-rending and moving autobiography brought a tear to my eyes - and I don’t mind admitting it.
After all, I had followed his professional rugby league career from the moment he signed on the dotted lines for his home-town club, St Helens, in 1992 - a fit, strong and active young man who had the sporting world at his feet - and then to see abdominal cancer cut his life short is a story I find almost too sad for words.
Yet, amazingly, iron-willed Steve, who initially was given only months to live in 2006 not only battled bravely against the disease until his death late last year at the age of 39, but sat down to write his own life story - full of sporting highs, his numerous fund-raising challenges and graphic details of the many hours he spent in hospital.
The autobigraphy, entitled One in a Million, also vividly illustrates how life can sometimes be so cruel - on the day his wife, Linzi, gave birth to their second child, Koby, Steve was told there was something seriously wrong with him.
“Unfortunately, what should have been one of our happiest days as a family turned out to be the start of the most traumatic episodes in my life,” Steve writes in the book.
“When I phoned Linz, I could hardly speak and just burst into tears before telling her that the consultant is really concerned.”
It was the start of a long and painful battle which the former Saints, Hull and Wakefield full-back took on board with the same determination as he played his chosen sport.
Eventually after ground-breaking organ transplant surgery, Steve rid himself of the disease, known as pseudomyxoma peritonei, but then, sadly, complications set in and he passed away on November 9, 2013.
However, the legacy he has left behind is summed up perfect by his widow, Linzi, who he describes in the book as his “rock” during his protracted illness.
In the foreword to the autobiography, she says: “Nobody knows what we went through during the last seven years of Stephen’s life, particularly the last eight months.
“But the chance of a transplant offered us a lifeline which we never imagined possible.
“We knew the risks from the onset but they didn’t concern Stephen.
“He wanted to beat the disease and he knew this was the only option. He achieved his dream.
“I have absolutely no regrets and if I could turn back time I would still make the same choices.”
Linzi adds: “I feel very proud at Stephen’s bravery in going through with this first in the world surgery and lessons learned from the experiences may help other patients with pseudomyxoma peritonri in the future.”
One on a Million, which Steve wrote with the help of St Helens-born journalist Mike Critchley, retails at £17.99, goes on general release from September 6.
It will be available from Saints, all good bookshops, internet retailers and publishers Vertical Editions Limited via www.verticaleditions.com
Not a normal sporting autobiography but a compelling and emotional read.