ALBURY Thunder coach Adrian Purtell knows all about digging in for a fight.
The former NRL player's health battles started in 2007 when he was struck down by deep vein thrombosis after a blood clot was found in his lungs.
Five years later, Purtell suffered a heart attack while playing for English club Bradford.
At 36, tough times have returned with Purtell facing his biggest challenge after being diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Purtell told his Thunder players in April with the tight-knit club rallying around him, keeping his cancer battle private in respect to its likeable leader.
He went public with his health problems late last week, largely to raise awareness for the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre.
"I've got so much appreciation for the cancer centre," Purtell said.
"Until you actually need it first hand, me personally I didn't take much notice of it, I drove past it all the time, but when I found out I had cancer the doctors, the nurses, the staff, they have all been awesome and made this journey a little bit more bearable.
"From the first Sunday, my oncologist Dr Christopher Steer, he actually rang me on a Sunday and said, 'you need to come down here and are you able to come and see me'?
"The beauty of that I was five minutes away.
"From that process, all the testing, appointments, treatment, everything's really smooth, what's a daunting time has made it a little easier to navigate through."
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Instead of dwelling on his wretched run, Purtell has opted to focus on the future and remarkably managed to play several Group Nine matches after his diagnosis.
"It was a nice positive distraction from what was going on, I felt like if I could play, I was going to, I just listened, to my body, at times sport can be a nice distraction," he said.
"If it had got to the stage where it was too hard to play, I definitely wouldn't have, it was nice to get a couple of games in, physically, it was pretty demanding."
Purtell, who first sought medical advice after having felt a lump in his neck, had his sixth treatment last week and is confident his run of bad luck is behind him.
"You've got to laugh at it a little bit, surely I've had my bad luck with health scares, the plan is if I get through this (laughs)," he said.
"I shouldn't have any issues for the rest of my life, I'm hoping.
"I think it's a good opportunity to get the word out there about early treatment and the cancer centre.
"That's the positive thing out if it.
"If I can help generate some conversation around that, then it's going to be a positive."
Purtell and Albury Thunder will look to raise money for the cancer centre when COVID permits.
"Like I said until you actually need it, you probably don't appreciate the work, that goes into those sort of places," he said.
"Every year the Thunder is really good in trying to generate some revenue for a chosen charity and this year we decided to do our jumpers for the cancer centre.
"But, unfortunately, due to COVID we didn't get to play our last game.
"It will be a wait and see, but definitely at some point we'll be raising some money after seeing first-hand how important it is to have such a centre so close to us here."
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