Triathlete and Paralympics hopeful Liam Twomey never thought he would be inspiring others, but these days it is a big part of what he does.
Diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in his right foot as a child, Twomey was an amputee at age seven, which was something he grappled with throughout his childhood and adolescence.
“My teenage years were tough, which was very self-inflicted, and I really struggled at high school; I was probably very, very high on the list of ‘least likely to succeed’,” he said.
“When I lost my leg as a kid I met a lot of people that had the same sort of experience with a disability, but they were all very… positive about it and able to get on with things quickly.
“That wasn’t my experience. I really struggled with it, and my identity, especially as a teenager.”
Twomey attempted to deal with his grief through self-destructive behaviour, including substance abuse, and suffered from poor mental health.
Fast forward 12 or so years to now, and Twomey is knocking on the door of qualification to the Paris Paralympics this year on the back of two fantastic results in Spain last season, one of which was a second place at the World Cup in Malaga.
This week the My Future, My Choice Geelong Disability Expo, which runs across February 23 and 24, announced Twomey as its ambassador.
Twomey now works as a public speaker and mental health advocate, often talking to high school students about his experiences.
“It’s a really phenomenal experience; selfishly, I get a lot out of it, probably more sometimes than the students do,” he said.
“My life’s completely changed by me being more accepting of who I am, and sometimes it’s something that you have to come to in your own time.
“But having good support is amazing and that’s why I think the expo and meeting people and having a community is so valuable. You never know who’s going to come out with a bit of gold for you that can help you turn things around.”