MARTINA Navratoliva has revealed a poignant song that reduced her to tears in midst of her gruelling cancer treatment.
In an emotional interview with Piers Morgan, the tennis ace says she is now cancer free – as she told how she feared not ‘seeing next Christmas’ after her devastating double diagnosis.
She told how she had to put on hold plans to adopt a child with model wife Julia Lemigova as she fought both throat and breast cancer.
And the champ with 59 major titles told how she gulped back tears when Sir Elton John’s I’m Still Standing was played by nursing staff during her radiation treatment.
When her radiation treatment began, she gulped back tears when Sir Elton’s tune was played by nursing staff.
Married Martina – who wore a specially-fitted mask during the proton therapy procedure – revealed: “You pick your music that you want to listen to.
“One time I picked Elton John and then he starts singing I’m Still Standing which he dedicated to me at a concert in Paris during the French Open in the ‘80s.
“So, when I’m in this mask not able to move and that song came on and I’m like, ‘Oh great, so I can’t really cry because I can’t swallow, I can’t move’.
“So, you have tears of feeling sorry for yourself.”
In a world exclusive interview with Piers for his TalkTV show, Martina, 66, said: “As far as they know I’m cancer-free.”
She’s due to have more preventative radiation on her breast for two weeks, but says: “Then I should be should be good to go.”
Speaking of her original diagnosis she explained her terror, saying: “I was in a total panic for three days thinking I may not see next Christmas.
“The bucket list came into my mind of all the things I wanted to do.
“And this may sound really shallow, but I was like, okay, ‘Which kick ass car do I really want to drive if I live like a year?’”
After three agonising nights they were finally able to tell her she had treatable throat cancer – and that she had breast cancer too.
Now clear of cancer, Martina had visited doctors with an enlarged lymph node in her neck during November’s WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Having previously had breast cancer in 2010, the tennis pundit realised she needed to get it checked quickly.
Martina added: “I noticed that my left lymph node was enlarged and I thought it was from a shingles vaccine I’d had a week before.
“But then a couple of weeks on it didn’t go down so I called the doctor.”
A biopsy confirmed she had cancer but Martina had to wait four agonising days to discover exactly where in the body it had originated.
Her doctor told her on a Friday afternoon: “We don’t know where it’s coming from. We need to find out. It could be the lungs or the liver or the kidneys.”
The star – who dominated women’s tennis in the 70s and 80s alongside great rival Chris Evert – had to wait until the following Monday morning for confirmation that she had stage one throat cancer.
Recalling her fear of death, she told Piers: “This was the first week in December, [I’m thinking] I will see this Christmas but maybe not the next one.”
Doctors told Martina the cancer was “extremely treatable” and offered a “95 per cent” chance of a full recovery.
During their interview Piers showed Martina a video of her ringing a bell at the clinic to signal the end of her treatment.
Tearing up, she revealed: “I’m crying just looking at it again because you just can’t wait to ring the bell.
Martina – who married former Miss USSR Julia Lemigova, 50, in 2014 – added: “So, phew, big, big relief, but emotionally I’ve been up and down because of what the doctor initially told me.
“I’m like, okay, so what do we do now? You get into tennis mode, that’s where having been a champion athlete comes in pretty handy.”
The tennis commentator then had a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to discover exactly where the cancer was in her neck. The test also detected cancer in her breast.
In 2010 she’d undergone a lumpectomy to remove cancer from her left breast. This time, an 8mm tumour had formed in her right breast.
The nine-times Wimbledon Singles winner admitted the double cancer diagnosis left her “very up and down”.
The star said: “I find out it’s throat cancer, I think I could be dying, but then I find out, no, it’s very treatable.
“Then when I had the biopsy on the right breast the doctor was saying, ‘This doesn’t look great’.
“That’s when I started crying on the table as she’s still poking and getting samples out of my boob.
“And I’m like, ‘Oh great, now I have two cancers at the same time that are not related. Who else has two cancers at the same time?’”
Martina and Julia, who have two daughters – Victoria, 21, and Emma, 17 – put plans for adopting another child on indefinite hold.
Moscow-born Julia said: “We were waiting for a phone call to welcome a child home and then we were fighting two cancers.
“So, today the first thing I’m thinking about is for Martina to get well and stronger, and we’ll see what happens.
“Life is full of surprises, who knows?”
Czech–American Martina added: “We were thinking about adopting but that’s definitely put on hold, and I don’t think it’s going to happen.
“I think it’s just too complicated and I only have so much energy right now.”
Widely considered one of tennis’s all time greats, Martina pledged in January “to fight” the cancer “with all I have got”.
Martina told Piers in the interview to be screened on TalkTV tomorrow night: “I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t realise it was going to be as hard as it really was.
“I love to eat and eating was the hardest part of this whole treatment. I lost 15lbs, not because I wanted to, but because I just couldn’t get enough food in my body.
“The radiation affects your throat and mouth which start closing up. I couldn’t even yawn or sneeze
“And I only had three weeks of the proton therapy when the normal course is seven weeks .”
By chance she was treated at the same New York clinic as her great tennis adversary Chris Evert.
Last year, former World No1 Chris, 68, completed six chemotherapy sessions to treat stage one ovarian cancer.
Martina told Piers: “Our careers are always intertwined and then we follow each other this way.
“You can’t just make it up. The parallels are unbelievable. Same place. Some of the same nurses.
“Chris has been just a star. She has supported me so much through this as I supported her a year ago.
“We were always there for each other no matter what.”
Watch Piers Morgan Uncensored weekdays on Sky 526, Virgin Media 606, Freeview 237, Freesat 217 or on Fox Nation in the US
As for the future, Martina plans bucket list holidays in Kenya and the Galapagos Islands, and says: “I still don’t feel great but I feel better every day. I’m starting to taste things finally.
“So, I’m still dealing with recovery but, overall, I think just really seize the days, you know. You can never have them back again.
“And I don’t want to waste my energy on things that aren’t meaningful and that don’t make a difference, not just for me but people around me and maybe the world at large as well.”
- Watch the interview in full on Tuesday night from 8pm on TalkTV