AN inspirational pensioner celebrated becoming a world powerlifting champion - despite battling prostate cancer.
Alex Lee has been winning events in weightlifting and power lifting since he was a teenager, and his determination to win trophies shows no signs of letting up despite the fact he is rapidly approaching his 70th birthday.
He was crowned as world champion in the Masters 4 category in a seniors event held on Tyneside earlier this month, beating off competitors who had travelled from 25 different countries.
But his dedication to sport pales into insignificance as he continues his nine-year fight against prostate cancer.
And to make his story even more remarkable, the drug which Alex takes to control his cancer is full of a female hormone to bring down his testosterone levels.
Alex, who lives in Granville Avenue, Hartlepool, with partner Sue Davies, a 74-year-old former domestic science teacher at Dyke House, English Martyrs and Brinkburn, said: “It feels great to be a world champion.
“This is the one I wanted. I’ve won various trophies and medals over the years, but if this is the last one I win then I’ll still be happy. I was lifting 142.5kg at the event last week and my nearest competitor couldn’t get past 140kg, so I was delighted.”
Alex, who hails from Thornley, worked as a PE teacher before spending 30 years teaching metalwork at Shotton Hall School, in Peterlee. After taking up the sport in 1960 as a teenager, he had taken the British champion crown by 1963.
He has stayed focused on the powerlifting ever since, despite undergoing a delicate quadruple heart bypass in 1991 and then suffering the heartache of losing his wife Valerie just months after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
He added: “Sport has been my life, so the only way I knew how to deal with it was to get back in the gym.
“I don’t sit around watching TV, I keep fit and active and that has to help my cancer. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I thought ‘why me?’.
“I got depressed, and it got me down. I have regular checks because with this form of cancer it is about controlling it and hoping it doesn’t spread to my organs or bones.
“If it spread to my bones, I’m looking at nine months, so of course it’s a worry when I’m getting closer to my check-up.
“It’s always in the back of my mind, apart from when I’m in the gym training. That’s my cut off point, when I get away from everything.
“When I was diagnosed, I was put on a drug which had to bring my testosterone levels down, so basically it was full of female hormones.
“I couldn’t cope with it, the side effects were similar to the ones a woman gets going through the menopause.
“But my daughter Sarah did some research and found a drug called Cyproterone Acetate. My doctor was reluctant at first, but I’ve been on them for years now and I haven’t had any problems.”
Alex keeps a close eye on his diet to keep himself in shape, but takes a combination of up to 20 tablets each day for his cancer and as supplements.
He added: “I often get drug tested at the weightlifting, but the tablets I’m on aren’t exactly performance enhancing, they’re more likely to work against me.
“It’s pretty much unheard of for a powerlifter to take female hormone drugs, but if I have to work a bit harder to keep on winning then so be it.”