THERE is no doubt bowel cancer survivor Joel Seeney is one of the toughest men in the country.
And although Joel's physique exudes power, it's the Maryborough man's positivity and willpower that are his greatest strengths.
Joel took out second place in the national 2016 Max's Challenge, a body transformation competition involving more than 10,000 entrants from across Australia.
For many who participated in the 12-week competition it was a challenge to eat healthy and train consistently, but for Joel losing 22kg from hardwork was a walk in the park; compared to what he has been through.
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Joel's now toned and fit body is a stark contrast to where he was two years ago.
"I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in October 2013," he said.
"I've got Junior Polyposis syndrome. Basically what happens is baby tumours keep growing back in my bowel and eventually they turn cancerous."
Doctors told Joel that if his cancer had not been diagnosed he would have been dead within a year. He underwent six weeks of chemotherapy and radium treatment before a 15-hour operation where he had tumours the size of his fist removed.
There was so much risk involved in the surgery Joel's parents were told to say their goodbyes. "They took my large intestines, large bowel, my anus, colon, shaved my tail bone and pelvis, all of that," he said."They gave me a stoma bag for life and removed three of my abdominals. "It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I lost more than 30kg - I was down to 64kg."
A stoma bag is required after the bowel has been rerouted through an artificially created hole (stoma) in the abdomen so waste can still leave the body.
Two years on and Joel is now the fittest he has ever been. The Maryborough father not only can squat 130kg, but he is weighing at 81kg of solid muscle.
"I would say I'm the fittest I have ever been," he said.
"But because I look normal and fit, everyone brushes past it.
"As a bowel cancer survivor it's tough - it's tough just to get out of bed.
"I try to have that positivity every day and focus on inspiring people and moving forward."
For Joel, posing shirtless and baring his scars and stoma bag is part of raising awareness.
"I'm that confident in myself, my body and my frame of mind that I am so proud to wear it (the stoma bag)," he said.
"There's nothing I can do about it, this is me. I don't want to change anything about me.
"My goal is to be an ambassador for bowel cancer, raise awareness for people to get checked and to show people you don't have to be held back by a stoma bag.
"I want to inspire people and show anyone with any disability that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."
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