On May 2, 2011, Brendan Brier woke up at 2am to intense headaches and relentless vomiting. It had passed by 7am but he went to see the doctor.
They prescribed paracetamol and concluded it was cluster headaches. The headaches kept returning and Brier went back to the doctor a week later.
"Another interesting symptom was that I couldn't back a trailer, now I don't mean to boast but I'm a legendary trailer backer," said the 35-year-old Hamiltonian.
Brier was referred to a specialist and on May 13 was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The following Monday Brier was in hospital and went under the knife on the Wednesday. He spent nine days in recovery and a month of sleeping twice a day for an hour.
This was followed by six weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The chemotherapy continued until January this year.
"I have now had three clear MRIs and have been allowed to drive," said Brier triumphantly.
"They usually don't let people with brain tumours drive for three years, so it's a small coup."
Sport has played a big part in his recovery. He has built up from a 20-minute walk to running 8km in the Taupo Great Lake Relay with his family.
This has progressed to completing three cycle races in the last six months; Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, The Rev and Le Race.
On Queen's Birthday weekend he will take on the 50km premier multisport title race at the 3D Multisport Festival. "It will be another fantastic event to complete the mix. The goal is to complete the two-day Coast to Coast again in the future."
It is an amazing turnaround for the weekend warrior and event director Neil Gellatly praised Brier for his courage.
"As event director, the elite athletes naturally get a lot of the attention but it's the entries from people like Brendan that make it all worthwhile," said Gellatly. "I'm so impressed with what he's come through and I'm proud that he can use my event to get back on top."
Brier said one of the key lessons from his hardship is that you can never underplay the role of family and friends.
"These are the people that hold your hand in the hour of need. This experience has been big and their support has been invaluable such as providing accommodation to a little brother for six months and driving services for 16 months. The material goals are no longer the priority that they once were. Having goals to achieve is fantastic but the journey is more important."
It has been hugely rewarding for Brier to be able to exercise at a similar level to what he could pre-cancer.
"My recovery started with walking down the street and slow building up to running 8km. Hitting the road for a bike, going for a run or heading for a paddle is a privilege and a highlight of my day."
Brier has the goal to finish the 50km race in under four hours which should be achievable "as long as I don't tip out of the kayak too much".
Brier has simple advice for people looking to overcome adversity in their own lives.
"Family and friends are critical to achieving a successful outcome. They'll provide you a rock to lean on or even carry you when you're not looking. Maintain a positive outlook, plan for the future while focusing on today.
A "cancer nurse" once told me that I'd never be able to be better than my "old self", to date I have blown that apart and intend to keep doing so."