Three months have passed since Chris Cairns had a medical emergency that flipped his life upside down. Andrew Alderson talks to the former Black Cap about what life looks like now.
"Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can."
When Chris Cairns emerged from his intensive care unit haze after suffering an aortic dissection his eyes roamed to the hospital room wall.
A poster featuring those words beamed from a slew of messages willing the 51-year-old husband, father, son and former cricketer on to recover from the life-threatening illness which had consumed his world.
The quote came from the late Arthur Ashe, the only black men's tennis player to win Wimbledon and US and Australian Opens. It was posted by Cairns' 10-year-old daughter Isabel, who already wields a decent racquet herself. The message remains an inspiration to her father as he continues his recovery journey.
Three months have passed since Cairns collapsed in his Canberra home and was transferred to Sydney for emergency heart surgery to combat a tear in the inner layer of the body's main artery. He subsequently suffered a spinal stroke, resulting in leg paralysis, and is undergoing daily rehabilitation at a specialist hospital.
THE GOOD NEWS is… he's alive.
"I'm extremely lucky," Cairns told The Herald and Newstalk ZB. "When you go through something like this and come out the other side, things get put into perspective pretty quickly.
"There was literally no real pain. I just got foggy and groggy but was completely functional when I dropped off the kids at school. I went home, lay down for three hours then woke up and called my wife Mel to say I wasn't feeling great. It was off to emergency once they took my blood pressure.
"I didn't even know what an aortic dissection was. Often it is misdiagnosed and, if not seen to straight away, can be fatal. The first surgeon I saw was a Kiwi boy, Glenn McKay from Balclutha. He saved my life."
Few players to stroll the international cricketing stage possess Cairns' mesmerising chutzpah.
Fans tended to pause in anticipation when he marked out his run, took guard or rifled in throws from the fine leg fence.
Victory was never out of the reckoning when the man coined "Cairnsy" had a role to play.
Now he just wants to walk again and resume life in the Australian capital with wife Mel and observe children Tom (19), Bram (18), Isabel, Noah (8) and Angus (4) grow up.
In that regard, Cairns paid tribute to the efforts of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association and their chief executive Heath Mills for supporting his family behind the scenes of the ordeal.
Cairns was once one of his generation's premier all-rounders at a time when the Black Caps, unlike the champion-blessed era of today, needed to siphon every shred of talent from a relatively weak player base.
The public's gaze has effectively been fixed on him, as the son-of-fellow-international Lance since his 1989 test debut as a 19-year-old for New Zealand against Australia in Perth.
Cairns' presence in a game was often the equivalent of western saloon doors bursting open for New Zealand devotees, particularly as the national side emerged from a mid-1990s slump.
The same magnetism applied beyond the boundary, notably as he strode the media gauntlet into a London court in 2015 and was cleared of perjury charges in relation to match-fixing allegations at the ill-fated Indian Cricket League in the late 2000s.
He has since endeavoured to rebuild after describing his reputation as "scorched" upon acquittal.
THE BETTER NEWS IS… Cairns has become a beacon of hope for those looking to overcome the odds of debilitating and life-threatening diagnoses.
Four major heart surgeries and an internal rewiring meant a ban on any stressful movement so his body could heal. As of Wednesday he can use his chest as he extends his movements in the gym. That's already an improvement on his early rehabilitation progress.
"At the hospital I was attached to a sling and pulley system that would get me onto the likes of the toilet because one aspect with the nerve damage and spinal stroke is the issue of bowel and bladder control."
Cairns has already acknowledged the Japanese art of Kintsugi as he mends. That's the belief something broken becomes stronger and more beautiful because of imperfections. The father-of-five bears the scars of how his life was saved, including a golf ball sized pitch mark in his left leg as a nod to vascular surgery which had to heal from the inside out.
"We're all broken in some way and often it's a case of embracing those faults that make us who we are.
"I'm three months into a pretty long process to come back. When I woke up from the original heart operation and realised what I'd gone through, my legs felt like they weighed 200kg each. That's when a scan revealed the spinal stoke.
"That threw in a whole new element to what the future looked like. I was always goal and destination focused, whereas this battle is about the journey. The nerves and neural pathways provide a complex system and you don't know when or if they will switch back on to allow you to stand and walk again. It's a different mindset, but I'm fortunate because death and brain damage were also possibilities with something like this."
THE BEST NEWS IS… Cairns' determination to overcome adversity, seemingly without any rancour for his predicament.
"I'm still just me, the same person sitting in a wheel chair, but I know the next six months to a year will be difficult getting up each day to meet that challenge. The good thing is we have choice, and my choice is to rise to fight.
"However, you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself with goals and objectives that lead to disappointment and a depressive state. It's a fine line between the bravado and the bolshy to the reality of the fact this will take time."
That left a confronting first question for those dedicated to his recovery: "Will I walk again?"
"My backside, calf muscles and hamstrings have atrophied and they need to be re-engaged by nerve pathways switching back on.
"The specialist said 'Chris, if you can stand, there a possibility you can progress to walking'. I have to get my glutes, hamstrings and calves back functioning. It's something most of us take for granted but there's actually a lot that goes into it with the force of gravity pushing down.
"Human beings have always defied the odds and shown specialists and doctors what they thought couldn't be done."
Cairns says early on his ambitions revolved around wanting to walk to the shops with his kids. He's now shifted that horizon to ensuring he's healthy of mind, even if that means spending life in a wheelchair.
"I don't know what the future will hold but… you have to be at peace that life will be different.
"I'm a lucky man to still be here to see my kids grow up."