Ashley Cain's late daughter is his 'superpower' as he gears up for cycle across Europe

Ashley Cain said his late daughter Azaylia, who died of leukaemia at just eight months old, 'taught me how to be courageous', as Neil Connery reports

Ex-footballer Ashley Cain says his late daughter is his “strength” and “superpower” as he prepares for another gruelling physical task to raise funds.

When Azaylia was just eight days old, her parents were told she’d need a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of leukaemia.

She died in April last year at the age of eight months and, in her honour, Cain now runs the Azaylia Foundation, which helps to fight childhood cancer through advancing early diagnosis and new treatment availability in the UK.

He is now gearing up for a 1,700-mile cycle across Europe, from London to Rome on a journey that will take him through the Alps, starting on August 28 until September 17.

"My daughter showed me what true strength is, she taught me how to be courageous," he told ITV News.

Ashley Cain with his daughter in hospital.

"She taught me that 'you know what, no matter where I go in life it’s not about the excuses that you make, it’s about the results that you get'.

"She smiled through all of her pain, through all of her battles.

"And that’s what I'm trying to do now - I'm trying to smile for her, I'm trying to fight for her and I'm trying to extend this amazing legacy for her.

"And with her watching over me and her sitting on my shoulder, I believe I can achieve anything in this world.

"I'm trying to live the most magnificent life I can while I'm here in the hope that I can build my steps to heaven, where hopefully I'll get my place to see her again."

'My daughter showed me what true strength is'

Cain previously ran five marathons in five days, but he said all he thinks about when he crosses the finish line is "what's next?"

"There’s still more awareness that needs to be raised, there's still more funds that these children need who are fighting," he said.

The runs, which took place in five major cities in Ireland and the UK over five days earlier in August, were to mark the second birthday on August 10 of his daughter.

Cain ran through Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff and London.

Cain, who played for Coventry City and later featured in reality TV show Ex On The Beach, also completed a 100-mile ultra marathon in April. He was joined by friends, family and public figures along the routes.

Ashley Cain (centre) with his cousin Tamika Cain (left) and Rehan Khalid running in Dublin Credit: PA

Cain said he goes to his daughter's resting place every day, sometimes twice, where he finds "peace" and "love".

He also gave the reason why he keeps his beard long - they're the same hairs touched by Azaylia.

He said: "She loved to play with it, she would grab it, she would hold on to it, she would pull me in and give me a kiss and slobber on my face.

"Using my beard, she would rub her toes through it, and because I don’t have my daughter here with me anymore, it's just a nice reminder of my daughter and the fun times we used to have.

"And I've still got the very hair on my face that my daughter used to play with. And this beard and me is like Samson and his hair, this beard is my strength because my daughter is my superpower, and it's something I can't see ever getting rid of."

'This beard and me is like Samson and his hair'

Cain is also among the recruits for the upcoming series of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.

He said: “Losing my daughter was the most difficult experience of my life. I think to combat trauma you need to step outside your comfort zone and see who you really are. “There’s no better way to do that than on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, so when the opportunity came, I took it with both hands.”

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