Gareth McAuley intends to make the most of his Premier League opportunity at West Brom, having feared he may have to retire over the summer.
The Northern Ireland international arrived in the big time at the age of 31, with the Baggies snapping him up as a free agent.
The former Ipswich man was delighted to be given such an opportunity, but saw events conspire against him shortly after his arrival at The Hawthorns.
McAuley was laid low by a mystery stomach virus and admits the problem posed a serious threat to his career at one stage.
"I couldn't have got a worse start than when I came here and got that virus. For a while I was actually thinking that I was just going to finish," said the defender, who is set to make his 10th successive start against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
"It was getting to that stage. By that stage, I'd had the illness for six to eight weeks and I just wasn't getting over it. You just wonder where it will end, or if that is the end. That's what I felt.
"Now, when I look back at photos from then, I can see that I was in a bad way. I look terrible, really unhealthy, but we didn't know what had caused it or anything like that."
Thankfully for McAuley, the illness eventually subsided.
He said: "I had some tests and they showed everything was okay. They said it was a post-virus reaction.
"For a week we dropped the training right back and gave my body just time to fight back and get the virus out of my system.
"From there it was a matter of hard work, eating the right food to get the weight and the muscle mass back on so that I was strong enough to compete. Fortunately things have picked up from there."
Having worked hard to get his big break, McAuley has no intention of slipping back out of the West Brom starting XI.
He said: "When the chance comes you have got to take it. Your head has got to be right, you have got to be physically ready, because you might be waiting a long time for a second chance.
"But you are going to have to play well or other players are going to be in there.
"Already this season the gaffer has left out Nicky Shorey and Paul Scharner, guys who have played a lot of football at this level, so if you are not doing the job it doesn't matter who you are."