Former Paralympic swimmer Marc Woods launches On Track project at Clatterbridge Hospital

PUBLISHED: 01:16 05 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 20 February 2013

In the swim, Marc won many medals during his sporting career, including several at the Paralympic Games

In the swim, Marc won many medals during his sporting career, including several at the Paralympic Games

Former Paralympic swimmer Marc Woods has set world records, won medals and climbed peaks around the world. Now he's embracing a new challenge

When Marc Woods was diagnosed with cancer it changed his life. He was only 17 when doctors told him the problem hed had with his ankle for 18 months was cancer. And they said his leg had to be amputated.

But rather than wallow in despair or dwell on the prospect of abandoning swimming - the career he had invested years of his young life in - Marc saw it as a new opportunity.

He said: Id been dealing with these issues with my ankle for more than a year. Cancer is difficult to diagnose in teenagers and Id been told it could be anything from arthritis to just bumping my ankle doing sport.

In a way I was almost relieved to know exactly what it was that was wrong. At the end of the day there was no choice. If I didnt have the amputation and chemo then I would die. What I felt and what I still feel about that day is that it was the day I could finally start getting better.

Marc had known he wanted to be a professional swimmer since he was ten. And with help from dad Maurice, who trained to become a coach when he discovered his sons dream, he had been representing county teams before he was diagnosed.

But remarkably, Marc, who now lives in West Didsbury with partner Petra and 18-month-old daughter Evie, had even more success after his leg was amputated.

Within a day of having stitches removed following his operation he was back in the pool. In another six months he was swimming faster than he ever had with two legs and 18 months after he finished chemotherapy he was selected to represent Great Britain. He competed at European and World Championships and at several Paralympic Games. During his swimming career he won 12 Paralympic medals as well as 21 medals from various championships.

He said: I remember thinking within five minutes of being diagnosed that I wasnt going to let it get the better of me. I thought other people arent going to stop their lives to feel sorry for me so why should I feel sorry for myself.

My dad was a very positive person and I think the way I dealt with things was that part of his personality in me. My entire family were so supportive. I also didnt know how long I had, I wanted to make the most of my time. I think thats why Ive been successful because I always try my best at everything.

Marc, who has now retired from international swimming, has plenty of new challenges to keep him busy. Already hes endured gruelling treks in Nepal, Ecuador and Peru, and hes started mountaineering. He has climbed the worlds highest volcano, Cotopxi in Ecuador. Perhaps not surprisingly he is now a motivational speaker as well as working in training and development.

The 42-year-old is also working with cancer charities. He has worked with the Teenage Cancer Trust for 20 years and helped set up the On Track project at the teenage cancer unit at Clatterbridge Hospital, Wirral.

The project, awarded the Inspire mark by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, brings sports and rehabilitation together to inspire young cancer patients to take part in physical activity. Clatterbridge has teamed up with the Greenbank Sporting Academy in Liverpool. Marc is now working to get the same ideas used around the UK.

He said: Im hoping that through the physical education and the support the teenagers get that they start to feel they are on the road to recovery. Its a big step to take to feeling healthy again. Its something most people take for granted but this is a massive step for young adults. Ive done some amazing things that Im very proud of. In a way I have been fortunate. It would be nice if young people think I am an inspiration and through the On Track project they can get the support they need.

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