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Father-of-three Tim Doidge (38) lost control of the left side of his body and struggled to speak and walk in 2015.
As his health deteriorated, doctors removed some of his brain tissue in an attempt to diagnose the crippling disease.
Doctors believed the disease was either blood cancer - central nervous system lymphoma - or an inflammation of the arteries supplying the brain, known as central nervous system vasculitis.
"Both are rare and deadly. My neurologist told me he had never seen anyone survive so much brain damage.''
On being discharged from the Isis Centre at Wakari Hospital in 2016, doctors told him the six rounds of chemotherapy had not worked as anticipated and he should expect to die.
A psychologist asked him to write "goodbye letters'' to his children, Anika, Oskar and Emily - now aged 8, 6 and 4 respectively. He started writing the letters but refused to finish them.
"I remember crying because I knew I wasn't going to die - I knew I had some fight left in me.''
And fight he did.
"I haven't deteriorated at all - I'm steadily getting better.''
A huge part of his recovery had been maintaining a positive outlook, remaining determined and having faith.
Mr Doidge has been training with the Iron Warriors three times a week since last year.
The training programme at SkyFit24 Gym in central Dunedin is open to anyone with long-term physical or intellectual disability.
The programme has helped him physically and mentally.
His ability to speak improved about six months ago.
Earlier this month, he was named the winner of the standing division in the New Zealand Wheelchair Body Building Federation's Kiwis versus the World online bodybuilding showdown.
Entrants from around the world entered photos of 11 mandatory poses to the online competition.
Mr Doidge said planned to stick with bodybuilding.
"I love it. I'll keep going until I get better. It's so beneficial.''
As part of the recovery, he eats a modified ketogenic diet which is high in fat and low in carbohydrate.
The diet was helping him maintain a lean body mass, improve his mental clarity, reduce fatigue and boost his energy levels and overall health, he said.
During his first year of recovery, he had high doses of vitamin C and sessions of reiki - an alternative healing in which a practitioner uses their hands to transfer energy to a patient.
A goal on his road to recovery was returning to his career as an electrical and programming technician.
He remained determined to make a full recovery despite rehabilitation doctors telling him the chances of regaining control of his left arm and hand were slight.
"I don't believe them. I think I can.''