After having surgery to cut a golf-ball sized tumour from the middle of his spinal cord in December of 2019, Orange teenager Fletcher Wright was heartbreakingly told there was a very real chance he would never walk again.
Less than 18 months on, he's proved that prognosis wrong and then some.
The 19-year-old is now on the verge of returning to the rugby field after being cleared to play during his final check-up on Thursday afternoon, he'll potentially step back onto the path to a professional career, a journey he started before his second bout of surgery.
He'd already had a tumour removed two years prior, a seven-centimetre mass was cut from his brain. The second was, devastatingly, discovered in his spinal cord during a routine check-up after the first.
After the doctor told me I might not walk again, and please excuse my French, I was just thinking 'that's bullshit, I'll show you'Orange's Fletcher Wright
It came not long after he'd moved to New Zealand to chase his dream in rugby union too, after years of dominating various NSW junior pathways.
Emergency surgery and the shattering news he may not walk again was followed by a three-month stint in hospital, a period that proved to be the definition of grit and determination.
"After the doctor told me I might not walk again, and please excuse my French, I was just thinking 'that's bullshit, I'll show you'," Mr Wright laughed.
"I did get a second opinion and that doctor gave me a 40 per cent chance of walking again. I liked those odds, and being young and reasonably fit helped.
"They sat me up about three days after surgery and it was the weirdest feeling, I could wiggle my toes but that was about it, so it's not dramatic to say I had to completely learn how to walk again.
"The time in hospital really helped the recovery because I didn't really have anything to do and they had the facilities for me to be in the gym constantly. I probably spent about eight hours a day in there, every day.
"The whole time I was thinking 'if I want to get out of here, I have to put the effort in'.
That positive mindset and resolve can't be underestimated although, despite how pragmatic a young man Mr Wright is, he admitted it has sometimes been impossible to avoid darker times.
"There's ups and downs, but I always try to remember that it's happened, I can't change it. These are the cards I've been dealt so all I can do is play the best hand possible," he said.
"Being in the NSW system and signing a provincial contract in New Zealand, Super Rugby was the goal so of course there's been thoughts of 'what if', but I've tried to stay as positive as I can."
He has other focuses now too, like his work as a personal trainer at RPT Health Group.
Mr Wright will return to training full-time with Orange Emus next week after being cleared during his final check-up on Thursday afternoon. He said he's hopeful of a return to the playing field in around a month.
Being just 19, he'll never say never either.
"I won't die wondering. I'll give it a red-hot crack but it's not such a big priority anymore," he said.
"I still have a bit of work to do with control and coordination, one of my legs gets a bit iffy sometimes, but because it's impacted the nerves that function may never return completely.
"I'll have some work to do to get my body used to everything again, I won't just go back in all guns blazing, I won't rush anything."
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