A KEEN body builder has bounced back to fitness - less than a decade after almost dying from a brain tumour.
Hartlepool man Andrew Bransom, 40, needed a nine-hour operation to remove a cancerous tumour the size of a golf ball.
In one fell swoop, he was transformed from an 18st 4lbs muscle man capable of lifting 70 kilos on each arm, to a man four stones lighter.
He spent a month in hospital and needed radiotherapy afterwards to remove the final remnants of the tumour.
But undaunted Andrew has fought his way back to fitness and hopes to finally achieve his dream of competing in body building events.
Today, he admitted: “I can’t give up. You just have to keep fighting on and doing your best.
“I owe it to my friends and my wife. Without them, I don’t know how I would have come through this.”
It was back on December 27, 2004 when Andrew had his first scare when he collapsed in the bathroom of his then home in Leyburn Street in Hartlepool.
He admitted to having headaches beforehand but put it down to the rigours of intense exercise as he prepared to compete in the North Britain Body Building Championships.
But he suffered a second episode two weeks later when he collapsed in the Bodywise Gym that he and his wife Sam, 37, owns, then based in Park Road.
Two gym members immediately raised the alert, calling for an ambulance.
Andrew was first taken to the University Hospital of Hartlepool before being transferred to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. A CT scan showed a shadow on his brain. Surgeons operated straight away and found the golf-ball sized tumour which was classed as grade 3 - meaning it was cancerous.
Sam, a control room operator for Cleveland Police, said: “They told us that if they had not operated when they did, it would have kept growing and cause problems, and they might not have been able to do anything for him.”
She praised the staff at James Cook as “magnificent”.
Andrew’s weight plummeted to 14st and he was told he would need permanent medication to control epilepsy. Even now, he gets occasional episodes. “Sometimes my left arm goes off and feels like a dead weight or my left leg goes dead,” he said.
“Doctors told me that if I hadn’t been so strong, it would have got the better of me.
“They said the effect on me was the same as if I had run two marathons back to back. I owe everything to my wife. Without her, I couldn’t have got through this.”
Andrew is now back owning and running the Body Wise Gym, now based in Stockton Road in Hartlepool, where it opened in May.
And Andrew is back into full training. “I don’t lift as much as I used to but I can bench press 180 kilo bars and use 60 kilo dumbbells. I can fully stack all the machines and I do want to get into competition. It is what I always dreamed of.
“The experts have told me I could have gone professional before.”
Sam said: “He is about 90 per cent of what he was and he is up and down. His immune system is not too good and he has been in hospital with viruses but he has done really well to come back and run the business.”
The couple have transformed an empty building into a gym with separate weights and cardio sections.
They hope to expand further having been given permission to add to the facilities.