One thought haunted Greg Eastwood for the entire Christmas break as he waited for the all-clear from doctors for an irregular heartbeat.
"I didn't want to leave my wife and kids behind just for a game of footy," New Zealander Eastwood said.
Eastwood underwent heart surgery in early December after twice suffering bouts of dizziness during pre-season, the first of which resulted in momentarily driving blind.
Not only did the health scare force him to sit out most of the pre-season, but it was also the start of a painful six-week wait that had him seriously considering retirement.
"It was pretty close," Eastwood told AAP.
"I'm at the back end of my career now. I thought about my family a lot because you hear a lot of people having it and collapsing and passing away.
Eastwood recalled how the saga meant he wasn't allowed to drive for the six weeks, leaving wife Ash to get behind the wheel for their summer trip to the Gold Coast.
But that's not what she was most concerned about.
"We had some pretty serious talks, mainly because you don't stuff around with your heart like that. It's not like a knee injury or shoulder," Eastwood said.
"It's something you need to live. Having to wait those six weeks after surgery not knowing if it was successful or not - it was a nervous time for both of us.
"In the end it was a relief to get the all clear, but you've got to have the chat when you're at this stage of your career. She was pretty freaked out, especially with five beautiful kids.
"You put them first before rugby league."
Former Kiwis forward Eastwood, who will have to pass one more medical test before the start of the season, admits he'll again think about hanging the boots when his contract expires this year.
He revealed considering retirement even before his heart scare, but is determined to see how this season pans out before making a final decision on his long-term future.
"I'm at the age now where you realise footy's not going to be around forever. I've been sitting down with the guidance counsellor after training to work out what we're going to do," he said.
"I want to play for a few more years - hopefully all for the Bulldogs - but we'll see how we go before maybe thinking about another contract."