Malaysia's badminton great Lee Chong Wei is recovering from nose cancer and is even keen on returning to the circuit soon but the 36-year-old carries painful memories of the ordeal he had been through in the last few months.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia confirmed in September that Chong Wei was diagnosed with an early-stage nose cancer and he was undergoing treatment in Taiwan.
When Chong Wei withdrew from 2018 World Championships in Nanjing, just before his first-round match against France's Brice Leverdez, it was revealed he was suffering from a respiratory disorder. However, upon medical consultation, it was found out that the three-time Olympic silver medalist was facing a more serious health ailment.
Chong Wei revealed it was his wife who broke the news to him as he was gearing up for a training session in the lead up to the world meet.
"My wife received a call from the doctor at about 11.30am. I wasn't aware of the call as I was resting after a tiring training session in the morning," Chong Wei told Malaysian news daily, The Star.
"I've already picked up my bag and was ready to leave home. Then, I asked Mew Choo whether the doctor has called. She came towards me, hugged me and cried. I knew it was bad news. Its nose cancer, she broke the news.
"My badminton bag slipped from my grasp and I started to cry too. I slumped on the sofa crying and asked why it had to be me. My mum found out and she hugged me and cried too."
Chong Wei underwent treatment in Taiwan and returned to Malaysia on November 7. The former world number one revealed he was unable to speak after going through a series of intense proton therapy sessions.
"I went through 33 sessions of proton therapy treatment and it was a nightmare. By the third week, it has taken a toll on my throat. I could not speak or eat. "I'm just so glad that the worst is over now."
Meanwhile, Chong Wei, who is slated to return to the tour in January, has insisted that he will not give up on his long-standing dream of participating in his fifth Olympic Games in 2020. Despite winning most of the coveted titles in badminton, an Olympic gold has eluded the Malaysian great. He came close to winning one at the Rio Games in 2016 and his chances received a big boost when he defeated arch-rival Lin Dan in the semi-final. However, he eventually ended up losing to China's Chen Long in the gold medal match.
"I really want to go for one more Olympics to make it my fifth consecutive appearance," said Chong Wei. No athlete from Malaysia has ever competed five times at the Olympics and I want to create history," Chong Wei said.
"It's not an easy feat to make it to five Olympics, that's equivalent to 20 years!"
Chong Wei hasn't played on the tour since reaching the semi-final of Indonesia Open in July 2018. While he is keen on not rushing his comeback, Chong Wei revealed he is targeting the All England Championships wherein he has won three titles.
He underwent treatment in July. Everything depends on his condition.
"I think the earliest I can come back is probably in January… My target is the All-England, but I can't really be sure I will come back by then," he said.