Scotland and Arsenal defender Jen Beattie has been receiving treatment for breast cancer.
Beattie was diagnosed in October but has since played for club and country.
The 29-year-old has made four Women’s Super League appearances this season for Arsenal, who she joined in 2019.
Describing the moment she found out about her diagnosis, Beattie told Football Focus: “I’ll be honest, you automatically think the worst. I asked the question: ‘Am I going to die?'”
She added: “It was complete panic and disbelief and I was scared. That was the overriding factor throughout the whole process.”
Beattie had a biopsy and was diagnosed a few days later, before receiving a treatment plan and having surgery to remove the lump in her breast. She describes it as “a big learning process”.
“You never think anything like that is going to happen to you,” she said. “You probably think, as a sportsperson, not that you’re going to be immune, but that it’s never going to be as close to home as yourself.”
Following surgery, Beattie was told the cancer had not spread and that she would not require chemotherapy, which she says was “the turning point”.
Beattie played for Arsenal on 11 October, scoring in a 5-0 WSL victory over Brighton just three days after her diagnosis.
“I genuinely feel the celebration of that goal sums up the whole experience and how the girls reacted to this whole thing,” she said. “They’ve just been amazing and so positive, asking questions and just being there for me in general.
“There was just an outburst of emotion with that goal.”
Beattie was unable to be with her family in Scotland throughout the process because of coronavirus restrictions, but says the support of her team-mates has been crucial.
“It’s times like these where you realise why you play sport. It really is like being part of a family, away from family,” she said.
“They have honestly been unbelievable, and there since day one. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Beattie featured for Scotland in Women’s Euro 2022 qualifiers against Portugal and Finland in November and December, though Shelley Kerr’s side missed out on a place at the tournament.
“The first game against Portugal I just remember thinking: ‘This might not have happened, it could have gone the other way.’ That cap means more to me now than any other cap I’ve previously been given,” she said.
Beattie played for Arsenal in a 3-0 win over Birmingham City on 6 December, but she is set to start radiotherapy in the coming weeks.
She says her aim now is to raise awareness of having breast cancer at a young age and encourage women to get checked.
“I know people are maybe scared to go to the hospital and scared to get checked out because of Covid, but there are still ways to do it,” said Beattie.
“I have friends who work in the NHS and they’ve said diagnoses have gone down massively for cancer this year, and that scares me so much, knowing that people are sitting at home and can maybe feel things but are too scared to go in.
“Whether you’re 29 or 79, it doesn’t really matter and you might have to deal with it at some point.
“You may live the healthiest lifestyle possible, but you still need to go and get these things checked and be really conscious.
“Even if it is still a horrible process to go through, it can be a much better ending if you just go and get checked.”