Yet, as a result of his emotional Grand National win in 1981, he has raised more than £15m for lifesaving medical research.
And while new data this week revealed how the diagnosis of the most serious cancers still lags behind other countries, it is equally important that this is set in the context of the extraordinary work being undertaken in this region’s hospitals.
Take Francesca Taylor-Draper. Reduced to a ‘bag of bones’ by chemotherapy treatment, the teenager couldn’t bear to hear the C-word mentioned in her presence. Now she is on the road to recovery and refuses to be known as ‘that girl with cancer’. The illness, she adds, does not define her. It has only made her stronger – champion qualities which can only help inspire future patients as the true meaning of ‘heroism’ is redefined.