Chelsea FC Women forward Fran Kirby, who says she is in a ‘better place’, has thanked the people closest to her for the continued support since being diagnosed with a medical condition called pericarditis that has kept her out of football since November.

The 26-year-old was diagnosed with the rare condition called pericarditis – an illness which causes inflammation to the fluid-filled sac around the heart – after the Blues’ 1-0 victory over Manchester United mid-November.

It’s been a tough six months for Kirby, but despite the long road to recovery, the forward is feeling positive having gone six weeks without any symptoms.

The Blues have been out of action since our Continental League Cup final triumph against Arsenal on Saturday 29 February due to the Covid-19 pandemic which forced all professional sport in England to be suspended in March. It has allowed Kirby more valuable time to recover.

‘Physically I wasn't able to do anything,’ Kirby said. ‘I wasn't allowed to do any walking, anything that would stress my heart or stress me. I was so tired, I couldn't move really. I was fed up.

‘I came back a couple of times to try and train but just had another setback, and then another setback. But each time I was able to train for longer without having symptoms. Then I would experience symptoms for a week or two.

‘With no football it's probably good for me because, in a selfish way, I wouldn't be quite ready to play yet. Now I'm kind of at the same level as everyone else.'

Kirby has also opened up about her struggles mentally and said: ‘People have seen me at my most vulnerable. I couldn't really have many conversations with people because I just felt so tired. I would start a conversation, then switch off and not finish.

‘I had people around me that could see I was that poorly and still trying to help me, even though sometimes I may have come across rude - I was just in a fog in my head, to be honest.

‘People have been messaging me every day. Little things like that mean so much even if I was taking two or three days to answer back because I just wasn't on my phone, I was exhausted I didn't even want to look at my phone. Now I can have those conversations and thank those people.’

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, Chelsea Foundation is providing exercise packs and education workbooks to schools that remain open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. Read the full story here.