Entries for all distances at the Great North Swim are open. Enter at: Greatswim.org/North

A Dad-of-two who was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had major surgery to save his life will return to the Great North Swim this year, tackling the event while wearing a stoma bag.

Paul Urwin, from Marske-by-the-Sea in Teesside, was a regular at the Great North Swim, the UK's biggest weekend of open water swimming, before he had a shock bowel cancer diagnosis three years ago.

Paul had taken part in every Great North Swim, until he was rocked by the news in 2014 that he had cancer in both his bowel and rectum.

He had to undergo a major operation at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, which removed all of his lower bowel and rectum.

After a six-week stay in hospital, Paul is now on his way to being in remission and relies on the use of a stoma bag.

He says this is a small price to pay for his treatment and is determined to live life to the fullest following his brave battle.

After missing the Great North Swim for the last three years while he recovered, Paul is determined to tackle the event this year as he takes to Lake Windermere for the one-mile distance.

He aims to raise £1,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support at the event, which takes place on the weekend of Friday 9 – Sunday 11 June after he saw the amazing work that the charity does during his time in hospital.

Paul, 67, said: “In 2014, I got the devastating news that I had bowel cancer. “After six weeks in hospital and three years later, I am still here thanks to the loving support of my family and the staff at the hospital.

“As I lay in that hospital bed recovering from a really huge operation, I never thought that I would have the chance to experience the beauty of swimming the event at Windermere again.

“I had been a yearly regular at the Great North Swim since it started and I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to take on one again following the diagnosis.

“The operation was a huge success and after a few check ups, I am well on my way to getting the all-clear soon which was a huge boost for me.

“I was fitted with a stoma bag following the operation, which removed my entire lower bowel and colon.

“I decided to not let that stop me from doing something that I loved so much, so I signed up to this year's event. “People ask me ‘how are you going to swim with a stoma bag' I always say ‘I just swim!'

“I am proof that living with a stoma bag does not mean the end of your life. It's just the beginning. I have travelled the world and had some amazing experiences.”

Paul, who works as a regional officer for the Football League, will join 10,000 other swimmers across Great North Swim weekend.

Every year thousands of new and returning swimmers grab their goggles, put on their wetsuits and head to the Lake District for an iconic open water swimming experience.

There are a range of distances on offer, from the Great North Swim250 for beginners, to the marathon 10k swim, for those looking for the ultimate challenge.

Paul added: “While in hospital I saw the wonderful work first hand that Macmillan do with cancer patients such as myself.

“I felt so inspired while doing the Great North Swim over the years that I thought I would try and raise money this time to support the charity's fantastic work.

“I also was desperate to get back in the water to prove to myself that I could do it again.”

Support Paul's fundraising for Macmillan here.

If you already have a place for the Great North Swim, join Team Macmillan here.

Entries for all distances at the Great North Swim are open. Enter at: Greatswim.org/North