Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has detailed for the first time how a debilitating illness left his football career on the precipice of ruin.
The Scotland captain was diagnosed with a rare bowel condition in December 2011 and has featured sporadically across the last two years.
Fletcher marked his return from the illness with a cameo appearance in the weekend win over Aston Villa and having been given a clean bill of health after several bouts of surgery he is ready to reignite his United career.
But the 29 year old has outlined how surgery in May saved his career from being lost to the illness.
"If the operation was not a success there was no way I would be able to play football," he said.
"My everyday life would be very difficult if it wasn't a success. It was two or three operations not just one, so it was psychologically challenging dealing with surgery as well. But I couldn't live my life at all. I needed something to be done.
"There was a day in about May when we said 'this is it'. Once I came out of that operation it was going to be, 'this has either worked or it hasn't'. It was a very emotional day.
"There was a lot of fear and anxiety and a lot of build-up. But I was in the hands of an unbelievable surgeon, and I put all my trust in him. He was confident, as long as I did everything right. He was confident all the tests were right. When that moment came, it was such a relief.
"I couldn't leave the house, it was as simple as that. I couldn't take my kids to the park, I couldn't go for a meal with my wife, just because of the nature of the illness. There was the exhaustion side of it as well. It was proving difficult. I always had a belief that one of the medications would work, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.
"Now I am back to normal, I am standing here and I do not have ulcerative colitis. I have come through that, and now I am leading a normal life. I am back playing football in the Premier League, it has all been a success. I am just like anyone else."
Fletcher's 21-minute appearance against Villa followed just under a year without an appearance, with his last start for United coming in the Premier League against Reading at the start of last December.
But having fully recovered the Scot is expected to play a significant part in United's festive schedule with games against West Ham United, Hull City, Nowich City and Tottenham Hotspur to come over Christmas and New Year.