Eintracht Frankfurt captain Marco Russ will undergo his latest examination on Wednesday as he continues to battle testicular cancer, with the 31-year-old hoping to recover in time for his side's winter training camp in Abu Dhabi.
It began with a failed drugs test. Following a 2-1 win at SV Darmstadt 98 on 30 April, Eintracht Frankfurt were notified by the German Football Association's anti-doping commission that their club captain, Russ, had shown unusually high levels of the growth hormone hCG during a routine control. Elevated hCG levels mean one of two things: the use of performance-enhancing drugs, or a cancerous illness.
It turned out to be the latter. On the day of Frankfurt's crucial Bundesliga play-off against 1. FC Nürnberg, the club announced that Russ had been diagnosed with "a heavy tumour disease", and that he would be undergoing imminent surgery.
In spite of the news, Russ vowed to play that night, although things didn't go quite as planned. In the first leg at the Commerzbank Arena, he scored an own goal to give the second-tier side the lead just before half-time. Frankfurt recovered to draw the game 1-1, but Russ was booked, meaning he would be suspended for the second leg.
Four days later, while Frankfurt were preserving their Bundesliga status in Nürnberg, Russ successfully underwent surgery, and began a course of chemotherapy soon afterwards.
A burly centre-back, Russ came through the youth ranks at Frankfurt, making his Bundesliga debut in March 2006. Barring a short spell with VfL Wolfsburg in 2011/12, he has been a regular fixture for the Eagles ever since, and inherited the captain's armband at the start of last season.
In September, Frankfurt made a statement by handing Russ a two-year contract extension, with the player praising the club for their trust and support.
On Saturday, he was given a warm reception by his team-mates and the FC Bayern München players at the Commerzbank Arena, as his side rescued an unlikely draw against the champions.
It will take the firm fan favourite some time to recover from his treatment – chemotherapy in particular – but the 31-year-old is determined to be back in action by January, when Frankfurt fly to Abu Dhabi for their winter training camp.
One thing's for sure: the thoughts of the Bundesliga are with the Frankfurt skipper, who remains cautiously optimistic: "They're going to examine my whole body, and if the doctors give me the green light, I'll start working with our two fitness coaches again. There are sure to be setbacks. My goal is to join the rest of the squad for our winter training camp. I hope I can be ready for the second half of the season, to be an option for the coach and for Eintracht."