LIFE has never been easy for weightlifting champ Mike Pyke, but the past year has been the most painful for the wheelchair wonder.

A year ago, the 34 year old, from Hindsford, was celebrating gold, having beaten the best in Britain.

Within a month, he was at an all-time low, having been shattered by the death of his best friend, Dave Smith, a fellow champion and international wheelchair athlete.

But Mike lifted himself to a world championship, and then topped the charts again in February by winning the British championships, held for the first time in his Leigh home town.

Since that day, Mike's fortunes took a downward swing and he was stunned to discover earlier this month that he has cancer.

But the straight-talking powerhouse is determined to beat it.

He first realised something was wrong after that famous win at Fleck's gym in February.

He said: "After the competition in Leigh, some of us went out and had a few drinks. I fell out of my chair, but I've done it before and didn't think anything about it. The morning after, I had a few aches and pains. But the back pain lasted for weeks and weeks and gradually worsened.

"My doctor sent me to a specialist at Leigh Infirmary and at first the results were confusing. A biopsy discovered I had a tumour and it was confirmed as cancerous."

He has been told he has a very rare type of cancer, normally found in people aged 60 to 70.

But this week, Mike received news which boosted his determination to beat the killer disease, when reports confirmed the cancer was confined to his bladder.

Three weeks ago, he had decided to get back in to training for the defence of his weightlifting titles, determined he had to make the best of the situation.

Eyeing-up his prospects for Sunday's nationals in Cardiff, the blond-haired strongman said: "I don't expect any favours and I won't be giving any. I know I'm not in peak condition but I'm not going to Cardiff to be a spare part."

For the past three weeks, spina bifida sufferer Mike, his wife Pauline, stepson Kenneth, and a supportive, close-knit circle of friends, have struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis.

He has taken great heart from his stepson Kenneth Simpson's refusal to accept it.

Mike said: "When he found out he said 'my dad's going to be all right' -- so now let's get on with getting rid of it.' I will be undergoing radiotherapy treatment at Christies and have been told I can't undergo chemotherapy because my kidneys would not stand it.

"Because I am otherwise fit, I have been told they can give me a high dose of radiotherapy.

"They can hit me with what they want as long as they get rid of it," he said.

But the Hindsford-based strongman won't be sitting around seeking sympathy.

He said: "What's the point of crying over spilt milk. Let's get down to getting rid of the problem. This is one event I can't afford to come second in.

"I think I have handled the situation pretty well. I have had my bad days but I can't dwell on what could happen -- it is what is going to happen that matters.

"As far as I'm concerned, I've got it and there's not a lot I can do about it.

"But it will take more than this to get rid of me!"

In the past year, his strength has taken him to the American Athletics Union world championship, two north western regional and the Manchester and district titles -- and during that time, he overcame intense pain after an ankle operation last June resulted in further problems.

Mike has also had to come to terms with the death of his fellow champion and friend Dave Smith, as well as putting up with excruciating pain until the cancer diagnosis.

But showing the courage that has come to be expected from him, he shrugs his shoulders and says: "It's another hurdle I've got to get over." DETERMINED:

Mike Pyke, before the Cardiff event on Sunday 'This is one event I can't afford to come second in ... I've got it and there's not a lot I can do about it'