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Martina Navratilova has emotionally opened up about her battle with cancer and how her family and friends in tennis rallied around her after her shock diagnosis.

The tennis legend revealed she had been left in tears after realising she might have a tumour while doctors were taking samples from her breast in an interview on Talk TV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored tonight. 

Describing her battle with the disease as the ‘hardest thing’ she’s ever had to go through, the 59-time Grand Slam winner said her there were times she feared she would not see next Christmas.

The 66-year-old revealed she was overwhelmed by support from her the likes of Jimmy Connors, Sue Barker and her great rival Chris Evert, adding that the last few months have brought her and her wife Julia ‘closer together’.

However, she has now confirmed she’s all clear of the disease after her fight, saying ‘quitting is just not in my DNA’ and breaking down in tears as she recalled the moment she rang a bell in the hospital to signify she was cancer-free.

Martina Navratoliva broke down as she revealed the impact her double cancer diagnosis had had on her life

Martina Navratoliva broke down as she revealed the impact her double cancer diagnosis had had on her life

The tennis legend pictured with her wife Julia Lemigova (left) and Talk TV presenter Piers Morgan (centre)

The tennis legend pictured with her wife Julia Lemigova (left) and Talk TV presenter Piers Morgan (centre)

The tennis ace, who had a career spanning four decades, announced she had been diagnosed with cancer at the start of the year, sparking an avalanche of support.

She confirmed that her friends in the tennis world sent her songs and personalised messages to help her get through the battle with the disease.

These included Lindsay Davenport, Clare Balding, Billie Jean King, Sue Barker, Pam Shriver and her great rival Chris Evert, who sent her Lean On Me by Bill Withers. 

Navratilova said: ‘I couldn’t even read that stuff, when Mary [my agent] first sent it to me I just started crying and I’m crying now. God I’m such a softie. 

‘I couldn’t read it [all] as I would definitely be bawling my eyes out, so one day at a time I read a little bit from what everybody wrote because it was so moving. 

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‘What they said to me personally outside the song was so meaningful. You don’t realise how much you mean to people until they do something like that.’

She added that the experience had brought her and her wife, Julia Lemigova, ‘closer together’ and that her wife was there ‘all the way’.

She told Morgan: ‘There was a look in Julia’s face that I had never seen before, because she was scared. We were both scared.’

Lemigova said: ‘We kind of re-bonded, reconnected and a re-evaluation of values happened and what’s important and what we want to do.’

Navratilova had previously beaten breast cancer in 2010, but said she feared she might not see Christmas 2023 after it returned.

She confirmed she was diagnosed after doctors found an enlarged lymph node in her neck during the WTA finals in Fort Worth in November, with tests later confirming she had both breast and throat cancer. 

The tennis legend emotionally revealed she cried after realising she had breast cancer for the second time. 

She said: ‘I find out it’s throat cancer, I think I could be dying, but I find out it’s very treatable. 

‘Then they found the right breast and when I had the biopsy on the right breast, the doctor was saying ‘this doesn’t look great’. 

‘When she said that I was like ‘Great, I have another cancer’. 

‘That’s when I started crying on the table as she was still poking in there getting samples out of my boob. I’m like ‘great, I have two cancers at the same time that are not related’. 

‘Who does that? Who has two cancers at the same time? I’m like I was never an underachiever but this is getting ridiculous.’ 

After being diagnosed at the beginning of last December, she said: ‘[I’m thinking] I will see this Christmas but maybe not the next one.’

During her playing career the Czech-born player dominated women's tennis with Chris Evert (pictured together at Wimbledon in 1978)

During her playing career the Czech-born player dominated women’s tennis with Chris Evert (pictured together at Wimbledon in 1978)

Navratilova, pictured here in 2019, said she told herself to stop complaining about her treatment after seeing children with cancer at the clinic

Navratilova, pictured here in 2019, said she told herself to stop complaining about her treatment after seeing children with cancer at the clinic

However, displaying the spirit that guided her to success on the tennis court, Navratilova defiantly said: ‘Giving up, giving in, stopping – that’s just not an option for me. You get on with it.’  

She added: ‘Quitting is just not in my DNA.’

Fortunately, doctors informed Navratilova her cancer was ‘extremely treatable’.

She said during the treatment, which took place while she wore a specially fitted mask, she was moved to tears as nurses played Elton John’s I’m Still Standing while she was in the hospital.

The singer had dedicated the song to the Czech-born athlete at a concert in Paris during the French Open in the 1980s.

Now a naturalised American, the tennis ace told Morgan she began writing her bucket list after the diagnosis.

She said: ‘This may sound really shallow, but I was like, okay, ‘Which kick ass car do I really want to drive if I live like a year?”

But now the tennis commentator will have more time than she had feared after beating the disease following a gruelling combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and proton therapy.

The 66-year-old, pictured here holding the Wimbledon trophy in 1990, received the double diagnosis in December

The 66-year-old, pictured here holding the Wimbledon trophy in 1990, received the double diagnosis in December

The athlete, pictured here at Wimbledon in 1990, said she wrote a bucket list after her most recent cancer diagnosis

The athlete, pictured here at Wimbledon in 1990, said she wrote a bucket list after her most recent cancer diagnosis 

Navratilova, pictured here holding the Wimbledon winners plate, said the treatment was the toughest thing she had ever done

Navratilova, pictured here holding the Wimbledon winners plate, said the treatment was the toughest thing she had ever done

In the interview, which will feature a video of Navratilova ringing a bell at the hospital to signal she was in the all clear, Navratilova says it was the toughest thing she has ever done.

However, she added she told herself to ‘suck it up’ after seeing children as young as six months old being treated for cancer in the same clinic.

Navratilova said she was kept company during her treatment by her pet dog Lulu who she ‘smuggled’ into the clinic.

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‘I didn’t know if they allowed dogs and I didn’t want to ask in case they said ‘no, it’s contraband’.

‘In one of those treatments she poked her nose though the doggy bag and the nurse says “oh, what a cute dog!”

‘So that’s when I knew dogs were ok.’

The treatment did throw the priorities in her life into sharp relief though, as she confirmed plans to adopt a child with her wife Julia Lemigova had to be put on hold. 

She said: ‘We were thinking about adopting but that’s definitely put on hold, and I don’t think it’s going to happen.

 ‘I think it’s just too complicated and the energy, I only have so much right now.’

She added adoption ‘was a nice thought for a while, but I think this has brought it into sharp focus’.

‘I’m not really the youngest anymore and I don’t want to be the grandmother on the playground,’ she stated, and then added: ‘Forget that part, there’s just not enough space I think for this to happen.’

The couple already have two daughters – Victoria, 21, and Emma, 17 – from Julia’s previous relationship.

Navratilova first met Julia more than 20 years ago in a Parisian gay bar, and tied the knot in 2015 after nine years together.

In 2012, Martina said motherhood had changed her life and she had cut down on her travelling to spend more time with her family.

Raising the sensitive issue of motherhood at the time, presenter Kirsty Young said that many high-profile gay couples have had children, before asking: ‘Would you have wanted to have children, or did that coincide with your grand slam years?’

Martina replied: ‘Pretty much, well those years are gone, I am well into the menopause now, so that ship has sailed!’

However, she added: ‘I never really got the opportunity to have a child, but I am in a relationship now with my partner and she has two girls, so I am a parent now.’

On motherhood, Martina said: ‘It’s difficult, two girls, but it’s fun, it’s amazing.’

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