At age two, he had polio and was confined to a wheelchair.
In 2009, at 52, doctors gave him nine to 12 months to live after he was diagnosed with stage four leukaemia.
But, six years on, after a successful bone marrow transplant, Dr William Tan is not just enjoying a new lease of life but also looking forward to representing hosts Singapore at the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG) from Dec 3 to 9.
The wheelchair athlete will be among more than 3,000 athletes and officials from 11 countries who will be participating in 15 sports and 500 events in the biggest APG yet.
Team Singapore will also be fielding their biggest contingent of more than 145 athletes, and using the services of more than 3,000 volunteers.
"I am really excited that Singapore will host the APG for the first time," said the 58-year-old Dr Tan, a resident physician at the National Cancer Centre who won a table tennis doubles bronze with Eugene Soh at the last APG in Myanmar in 2013.
"Because of some complications, I had to do indoor sports.
"But, this year, I have made a comeback and will return to my favourite sport of wheelchair athletics, where I will take part in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.
"I'm grateful that over the years our voices have been heard and the support for para sports is getting better. We are looking forward to the different facilities catered to para sports."
Stories like Dr Tan's are exactly what Lim Teck Yin, chairman of the Singapore APG executive committee, hopes will inspire more support, understanding, participation and appreciation for para sport.
He said: "We aspire for a legacy where every person with disability has access and opportunity to live better through sport, in line with our Vision 2030 aspirations.
"The ASEAN Para Games will be leveraged upon to inspire people to participate, to inspire the sense that we are all one Team Singapore.
"This is a key milestone event in Singapore's sporting history... and one of the closing events for the celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee year.
A SPECIAL YEAR
"This is a special year for all Singaporeans and we encourage everyone to come together to cheer these inspiring athletes and embrace an event that is all about inclusiveness and courage to rise above life's challenges."
Team Singapore won seven gold, 10 silver and nine bronze medals in 2013. Their best showing was in the inaugural 2001 edition when they brought home 16 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze medals from Malaysia.
And Singapore's APG chef-de-mission Raja Singh, a hand-cycling athlete, hopes to top that.
Even though he will not be competing at this APG, the 53-year-old businessman is enjoying the journey of reprising the role he also served in Malaysia in 2009.
He said: "We have had more support than ever before, and we want more people to understand about disability sports. "We are putting in all our effort with an aim to do better than before."
Preparations are in full force, with 10 venues confirmed. A primary consideration for the venues is the ease of accessibility for the athletes and spectators.
In the build-up to the APG, there will be roadshows and para sports invitationals to raise awareness and interest.
The Team Singapore flag presentation will be on Nov 14 at Marina Bay, in conjunction with The Reindeer Walk, a charity fund-raiser walk by Singapore Disability Sports Council.
There will also be a carnival held at the Sports Hub from Nov 28 to Dec 9, where the public can try out the different para sports and watch the APG live.
Admission will be free for all the APG sports events and the public are encouraged to register their interest in attending the events on the official Games website www.aseanparagames2015.com
SCHEDULE AND VENUES
Opening Ceremony (Dec 3) Singapore Indoor Stadium
Archery (Dec 5-7) Kallang Cricket Field
Athletics (Dec 3-9) National Stadium
Badminton (Dec 4-8) OCBC Arena Hall 2
Boccia (Dec 4-8) OCBC Arena Hall 3
Chess (Dec 4-8) OCBC Arena Hall 4
Football five-a-side (Dec 4,6,8) Marina Bay Sands Hall
Football seven-a-side (Dec 4-9) Jalan Besar Stadium
Goalball (Dec 4-9) Marina Bay Sands Hall
Powerlifting (Dec 6-9) Marina Bay Sands Hall
Sailing (Dec 6-8) Bayfront
Shooting (Dec 4-8) Yishun Safra
Swimming (Dec 4-8) OCBC Aquatic Centre
Tenpin bowling (Dec 5-7) Temasek Club
Table tennis (Dec 4-8) OCBC Arena Hall 1
Wheelchair basketball (Dec 5-9) Singapore Indoor Stadium
This article was first published on August 22, 2015.
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