'My cancer came back'

Rochdale’s Joe Thompson on his battle with cancer

Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson has already fought off cancer once but is now battling the disease a second time.

Thompson overcame nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma after a six-month course of chemotherapy while at Tranmere in 2014, but the illness returned and he was forced to stop playing football in March.

This week, Thompson, 28, was admitted to Christie’s Hospital in Manchester for further chemotherapy and stem cell replacement.

Days earlier, Joe and his wife Chantelle spoke to BBC Sport’s Simon Stone.

Just before Christmas, I found out the cancer had come back.

It was a Thursday or Friday morning and I was due to go training. I thought I was going to get some good news from the doctors so I had my wash bag ready and my boots sorted. But then I got angry, really angry.

Initially I got a phone call from my manager, Keith Hill, asking me where I was because I was running behind. I just stopped in the car park at the hospital and told him. I started crying and he said “don’t worry. we will sort it out”.

I said I would come in later on but I didn’t want all the lads to be there because I knew I was going to cry. I knew they had preparations and I didn’t want to knock us all.

But a few of them were still there – I shed a few tears and had a few deep conversations. It is a great changing room, and they support you. When one of your soldiers is down, you are looking to the rest of the cavalry to pick him up.

‘I was really struggling, then I was violently sick’

Thompson (right) last played for Rochdale in a 2-2 draw at MK Dons on 11 March

Thompson, who made over 100 appearances for hometown club Rochdale at the start of his career, also had spells at Bury and Southport before re-signing for The Dale in September 2016 on a six-month contract.

He made 28 appearances in the 2016-17 season, scoring three goals, but last played for the club in a League One game against MK Dons on 11 March.

I played on with it for as long as I could, but it got too hard and too strenuous.

It all came to a head at MK Dons away. I had not been feeling great but I was still able to do everything that was asked of me.

I was on the bench initially. I had scored against Peterborough the week before so I was a bit in a huff about being a sub. But Stephen Davis had to come off after 20 minutes and I went on up front.

The game was 100 miles an hour and I was in slow motion. I was really struggling.

I tried to refuel at half-time but when the floodlights came on, my eyes started going. Everything was off and my passing wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t going where I wanted it to go. The second 45 minutes was a nightmare.

I had some results due the following Monday. I was thinking “is it just anxiety?” But after the game I was violently sick. I had to see their club doctor as I was being sick with blood and I wasn’t really with it. My physio and the medical staff were all around me and the lads could hear me being sick. Everyone was down.

‘He will come out the other end’

Thompson and his wife Chantelle have a four-year-old daughter called Thailula. Her reaction was uppermost in their minds, as Chantelle explains…