Josh Turnbull: Cardiff Blues flanker feared his career was over
Wales flanker Josh Turnbull says he feared he might never play again as he prepares for his competitive return with Cardiff Blues.
The 29-year-old was sidelined by a back injury from December 2016 before making pre-season appearances against London Scottish and Exeter this month.
Turnbull could start Friday's Pro14 opener against Edinburgh and is relieved to be fit again.
"I questioned whether I would play again at one point," said Turnbull.
His last league appearance came against Ulster on 3 December 2016 before he succumbed to his problem.
"After the Ulster game I felt terrible," said Turnbull.
"I was a little bit sick, my legs felt weak and I had a scan which showed I had a nasty bulge in my lower back.
"It was so frustrating. Losing the sense in your big toe, not being able to do a single leg calf raise, not being to sit down for longer than 10 minutes without having raging sciatica pain going through your leg.
"It was pretty frustrating across Christmas time when you had two youngsters wanting to be picked up and carried.
"There would be days when they wanted to play but I couldn't sit there with them before my back started raging again and I had to get back up and start walking around."
Surgery was required to solve his ruptured disc at the base of the spine.
"They have used a clamp to open it up, go through the muscle and scoop the bulge out which the surgeon said was the biggest he had ever seen," said Turnbull.
"I had it in a pot for about two weeks afterwards but it turned black and I chucked it away because it was a bad omen."
Turnbull admitted it was slow progress after the operation.
"I probably haven't even said this to my wife Jess but I questioned myself," added Turnbull.
"I remember lying there watching the Six Nations and struggling to move or walk down the stairs.
"I was thinking 'I don't know whether I was going to come back from this.'
"The one question that got me was when my Mum asked me 'was this the beginning of the end?!'
"Six weeks after the operation I was keeled over at the waist, crutch in one hand, couldn't stand up straight and took a long time for strength in my calf to come back.
"The doctor told me I would be back on the field after three months. When six weeks had gone by, I thought that was ambitious because I wasn't even walking properly!"
As time progressed Turnbull improved although he resisted returning at the end of last season.
"My wife told me to keep working hard and sometimes you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Turnbull.
"I worked hard to put myself in the best position to try and come back last season but it wasn't to be.
"That was probably a blessing because the extra rest and break did me the world of the good."
Turnbull won the last eight of his Wales caps in May 2016 against England at Twickenham but is just concentrating on returning with the Blues.
"I am excited again. You want to be out there playing with your mates on the field," said Turnbull.
"You want to throw yourself around and know you can do what you have done before."