FORMER TNS midfielder Sam Finley has received a huge boost in his recovery from serious illness.
The 24-year-old, who moved to AFC Fylde in August 2015, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis just over a year ago, but a recent flare-up has seen him side-lined since November. Finley feared that an operation may be necessary with the risk of 12 months out of the game but he is now hopeful of avoiding surgery.
"I found out I had Ulcerative Colitis the day before we played Warrington in the FA Trophy last season," he told the AFC Fylde website."I went in for a test and found out that's what it was and obviously didn't play the next day. I went on medication for a while but it was okay, it was manageable.
"I carried that on but at the end of November I had a flare up. I completely lost my appetite and I lost a stone very quickly. I had to go to hospital to get steroids on a drip and got out just before Christmas because I felt okay, but I was back in a few days later and was in right through the New Year.
"The surgeon spoke to me and said I would probably need an operation. I was on the highest dosage of medication possible - over 30 tablets a day - and I had to put an injection into my stomach. The surgeon was concerned that it still wasn't calming down and was keen to operate, but not long after they got the results of my biopsy and found a virus called CMV in my bowel.
"That needed treating before they could do the operation because potentially it is the virus that is causing the problems and not the ulcerative colitis. Even with the condition, I never had a day off right from diagnosis, so there is a good chance that it's the virus rather than the condition causing this recent flare up.
"I am still on steroids at the moment to calm it down and I am half way through an eight-week course. I went to the hospital on Monday and they decided against the operation and having my bowel taken out now if I am starting to feel better.
"Potentially it is the steroids that are making me feel better and we won't know 100 per cent for another month, but the signs are good. Hopefully I might not actually need the operation for another 10-15 years. I still have a drip in my arm at the moment, but that is supposed to come out this week and hopefully I'll be able to start some light training."
Finley made a big impression with TNS, scoring 18 goals from 49 (+15) Welsh Premier appearances, after being recruited from Warrington Town by director of football Craig Harrison. Loaned to Wrexham in February 2015, he featured in the TNS Champions League campaign before joining AFC Fylde.
News of Finley's condition has reached Premier League club West Brom and Darren Fletcher, who suffered with the same condition and offered some words of support.
"My uncle is friends with the assistant at West Brom and he mentioned it to Darren Fletcher who had the same thing. To be fair to Fletcher, he rang me the very next day and I was on the phone to him for an hour talking through it all," Finley added.
"He had it for around three years and kept getting the symptoms and similarly went on the steroids but in the end it got that bad that he had to go for the operation.
"He was out for around 10 months and I told my surgeon that, but he said everyone's body responds in a different way.
"I'm definitely starting to feeling better and I can't wait to get back to how I was before."
Below: Finley in European action for TNS.