Veteran New Zealand basketballer Alex Pledger has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The 34-year-old former Tall Blacks and NZ Breakers centre had been feeling unwell for almost five months, with a series of tests with medical professionals returning inconclusive results.
Last week, Pledger fell ill again and was admitted to hospital, where he was ultimately diagnosed by specialists, who believe he may have been carrying the cancer for several years.
Pledger is optimistic of his chances of winning his battle with the disease.
"Obviously, this has been a shock," Pledger says. "Early tests are showing positive signs and I'm feeling really good about our plan to beat this.
"I feel extremely lucky that this has been discovered at the stage it has."
Affectionately known as 'Chief', seven-footer (2.13m) Pledger has been a mainstay on the NZ basketball scene since 2009, when he made his NZ Breakers debut.
He went on to win four ANBL championships with the Breakers and has been a regular for the Tall Blacks at the centre position, winning a bronze medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
In 2018, he joined Melbourne United for a two-season stint, before returning to New Zealand to rejoin the NBL's Southland Sharks for their 2021 campaign.
Pledger hasn't given up hope of a return to the court.
"I'm really grateful for the medical team, my family and the wonderful support I'm already receiving from the basketball community.
"I'm looking forward to the future and hopefully getting back on court."
Next week, Pledger will begin radiotherapy as part of his initial treatment plan, which is expected to last six weeks.