Six weeks ago, Johnny Koutroumbis received the news no one should ever have to hear.
Yet today it was business as usual for the 20-year-old Newcastle Jets defender, who resumed full training after having surgery to remove a tumour on his thyroid gland.
Koutroumbis was diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer in October, but says he feels at the peak of his powers, and revealed his diagnosis has sparked a whole new outlook on life.
“I feel fantastic really,” he said.
“I’m going out there and getting my fitness back, it’s all the usual routine that I used to do.
“I haven’t felt better to be honest. It’s changed my attitude as well towards everything. I just try and think positively about everything.
“You don’t take things for granted anymore. You think about other things, other aspects of life.
“Football is just a job really, but it’s a big job and a big part of our lives as footballers. My headspace is I just want to get fit again and be out there playing.”
The steel city and wider footballing community has rallied around Koutroumbis following his diagnosis.
Newcastle teammates Dimitri Petratos and Nick Cowburn dedicated their goals against Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC respectively to the young defender.
Moreover, he has also been swarmed with messages of support from around the country.
Koutroumbis is set for radiation therapy in the upcoming weeks and is targeting a return to Hyundai A-League action soon.
“It was very warming to get so many messages from fans all around Australia. The whole football community was messaging me and I felt really, really a part of something,” he continued.
“I want to spread awareness with getting check-ups from your doctor, your GP if anything is unusual.
“You can’t shy away from these things. Your health is number one importance. There’s football, there’s work and there’s everything else but your health definitely comes down to number one priority.”