Seven months ago, Jonas Gutierrez was at a low ebb.
A gruelling course of chemotherapy in his native Argentina had taken a toll on Gutierrez, though he still found the strength to run the Buenos Aires marathon.
With a month, however, Gutierrez’s body had started to recover.
The all-clear followed, and he was soon back on Tyneside ready to resume his footballing career.
Gutierrez didn’t know if he would be able to play again for Newcastle United, nor did head coach John Carver.
But play again he did.
And Gutierrez’s remarkable comeback from cancer had a remarkable ending on what is likely to be his last appearance for the club he has served for the past seven years.
He had picked himself up, and he went on to pick up the club, which had found itself at a low ebb in the latter months of a forgettable campaign.
Thankfully, it ended with an unforgettable memory.
With the club’s Premier League status at stake, Gutierrez scored one goal and set up another at St James’s Park on Sunday.
It was a dream, especially after a few months ago thinking I would not play football again. It was a fantastic finish with a moment like that. Unbelievable.Jonas Gutierrez
Gutierrez’s inspirational performance breathed new life into a stadium which had slowly had the lifeblood sucked out of it. It was a heroic performance from a player best known for donning a Spider-Man mask to celebrate his goals.
There was no mask this time, but there was also no masking Gutierrez’s joy at an “unbelievable” end to his Newcastle career.
“It was a dream, especially after a few months ago thinking I would not play football again,” said the 31-year-old.
“It was a fantastic finish with a moment like that. Unbelievable.
“I have been here seven years, and these fans and this city do not deserve to wait until the last day to stay up or go down. The club has to change because it is a massive club, massive fans, and they deserve much better things.”
Gutierrez was the last player off the field after the 2-0 win over West Ham United.
And the Argentina international reflected on his journey before leaving the stadium, almost certainly for the last time as a player, an hour and a half after the final whistle with close friend and countryman Fabricio Coloccini.
Gutierrez had a testicle removed two years ago, but the cancer returned last year, and he started chemotherapy.
“It was in October – that was my lowest point,” said Gutierrez, who lost his trademark long hair during his treatment.
“I started the treatment in July. My body started in recovery after November. It was hard before that moment. It was hard before that. All the training that I had ben doing I was doing more and more and I was improving every day, but it was a hard road to come back.
“Since I had the treatment the only thing that I was thinking was recovery. I was not really thinking about playing football, to be honest.
“The chemotherapy is a harsh treatment. Your body really feels it. You lose your hair with all the medication going into your body. It was hard. After that when I finished with the treatment, and I started outside the medication, my body started recovery.
“It got nicer, because everyday my body was getting better, but, of course, during the chemo it was hard watching your body in that type of state.
“In those moments you don’t think about playing football again. Then the doctor says ‘you are OK, you can start again’. I started to think ‘oh well, let’s see what happens’.
“I didn’t know how my body was going to react. Every day I was improving. One day I did a two-minute run. The next day four, and so on.
“Obviously, I got up to doing a marathon too!
“The good thing is my body reacted really well to the treatment, and the exercise. The doctor told me the fact I was a footballer, and fit already, was a big help to recover and come back.
“You train all the days all year, so your body has memory of being well and fit. My body would feel it for a few days then get stronger.”
Gutierrez, with his boyish enthusiasm, gave Newcastle strength on the final day of the season.
He doesn’t expect to be back next season, with his contract expiring next month. But Gutierrez will always be a fan of the club whose fans took him to their hearts and gave him an inner strength during the final months of his battle against cancer.
“Thanks to all the fans,” he said. “Through my illness, they have been unbelievable to me.
“I owe every one of them a thank you for supporting Newcastle and supporting me.”