The Tony Marsh story – facing down challenges on and off the field

The Tony Marsh story – facing down challenges on and off the field

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health and wellness ambassador

Tony Marsh played professionally in New Zealand before joining the French national team. A brush with testicular cancer saw him reassessing his priorities and returning to New Zealand, where he works as a personal trainer and men’s health advocate.

This is his story...

“Being an elite athlete I got to live the dream. I even got to live moments that I’d never dreamed of.

“There were definitely a lot of highlights and fond memories, but there were also a hell of a lot of lows in between.

“Playing professional rugby at an international level was all about being at maximum week in and week out. For me it was 12 years of striving to be number one.

“Competing at that level, you are constantly faced with challenges. Hitting fitness targets, competing for selection, injuries, performing on the field, facing up to media, public criticism... the list goes on.

“It’s tough physically and also very demanding mentally. You need to be at your peak and you need to do it week in and week out over a 10-month season, year after year.

“In 2003, I was playing for the French rugby team when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer changed the hormone levels in my body, and initially I was suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs – so there was some form of relief when I found out I had a tumour.

“There is a stigma attached to the word cancer and I felt as if people looked at me differently, like I was sick. I hated that and tried to live as much of a ‘normal’ life as possible.

"Treatment was short. I had got it early. I had always thought that I was going to come out the other side, and I was one of the lucky ones.

“Making the decision to hang up my boots wasn’t easy, but it was time to make the call on my terms, turn the page and move forward.

“But post-rugby I wasn’t finished with sports. I needed another challenge, and still had a desire to be a competitor so I turned to ironman. There was something crazy about it.

“Very quickly I was humbled, coming from a sport where I was at the top and starting another sport where I was right down the pecking order. But it was all about giving it my best shot and getting outside my comfort zone.

“In 2014, I had another health setback whilst training for ironman. I was tired, I wanted to sleep all the time and I was just going through the motions with my training. A blood test showed that I had a hyperactive thyroid, meaning that chasing personal bests on the ironman course was no longer an option.

“For me, these health bumps brought a new dimension to my life. I was forced to focus on what I could do to look after my body and make my health better.

“I now have my thyroid under control and with lots of good food, good sleep and just looking after myself it doesn’t affect me in any way.

“Right now, life is about redefining me as a person. I am no longer Tony Marsh the rugby player. I see myself as entering phase two of my life, where I have transitioned from sports into another career and life.

“There are still many challenges, up and downs and times when I question myself and what I am doing, but it’s a matter of moving ahead one step at a time, ticking boxes and getting comfortable (sometimes uncomfortable) with who I am and what I’m achieving.

“I’m looking forward to sharing some of what I’ve learned – and what I’m still working on – in future blogs and videos. Join me and sign up below.

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