Thyroid cancer has denied former Penrith captain Luke Lewis the chance to play a farewell match for his NRL club.
Lewis, who will join Cronulla at the end of the season, has been sidelined since the Panthers' 26-18 loss to Wests Tigers on July 14.
A neck injury in that clash with the Tigers proved to be a fortunate setback for Lewis, with scans finding a lump on his thyroid.
"The doctors wanted to take a biopsy to make sure everything was alright," Lewis told The Daily Telegraph.
"The biopsy came back showing that I had abnormal cells and I needed to see a specialist. They cut some more out and told me it was thyroid cancer.
"From the start it was made clear to me that everything would be OK, that I'd only need tablets and not anything like chemo.
"But I needed to go back and have my thyroid removed, which happened last Monday."
The surgery was successful, but scar tissue means Lewis won't be able to take on either Gold Coast on Saturday or Brisbane next Friday night.
The 29-year-old, who has resumed gym work and is confident he'll be available for the October 13 Test against New Zealand in Townsville, said the diagnosis was scary.
"It's all still a mixture of emotions.
"I sort of dealt with it by imaging it wasn't happening to me - if that makes sense.
"...It was pretty lucky they found it at all. If I hadn't hurt my neck who knows how long it might have been there before anyone noticed?
"It could have turned out to be something a lot more serious and I'm very thankful it's not."