Ex-footballer John Hartson admits his gambling addiction was costing him thousands of pounds a month.
The former Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker told BBC Wales he still goes to Gamblers Anonymous twice a week.
Hartson, 39, from Swansea, said he tells himself: “If I have another bet I will not only lose my wife and children but I will also die.”
He deals frankly with his addiction and his cancer fight back in a documentary broadcast on BBC One Wales later.
Five years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer while he was at Celtic, the former Wales international who was capped 51 times for his country, has opened up about his turbulent life experiences.
His life-long addiction to gambling began with slot machines when he was an apprentice footballer with Luton Town.
As his football career grew – his record signing with Arsenal as a teenager made him Wales’ most expensive player at the time – so did his gambling habit.
And it ended up costing him thousands of pounds every month.
But he faced an even bigger challenge when at 34 doctors found his cancer – and it had already spread to his lung and brain.
In the documentary, Hartson, his family and his doctors describe the emergency operations and the night he almost died.
In an interview with Radio Cymru, he said: “I was so, so close to dying, people don’t realise I was only seconds away from death.
“Others have suggested that I had no chance of survival and that in fact ‘John has gone’.”
The interview coincides with the one-off documentary The John Hartson Story on BBC 1 Wales.
The programme includes contributions from fellow players Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage.
It also follows his charity work with his foundation’s motto “Grab Life By The Balls” to raise awareness among young men about testicular cancer.
The John Hartson Story, BBC One Wales at 21:00 BST
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