Telling me that I can’t, motivates me to prove that I can!
‘Your test results show that you have Friedreich’s Ataxia..
…down the line patients can’t work…..can’t drive…..can’t live independently….’
Much of my diagnosis was a blur, but the repeated word that resounded in my head was CAN’T.
At a time when I needed some kind of hope, my head was just being filled by a negative word.
When I was a kid, we had a tourer caravan and would spend 2 weeks in Cornwall every summer. I think we had been to most parts of Devon & Cornwall, I always think of it as a special place. I bought my first body board during my first break there, and I guess that was the first sign of my attraction to adrenaline sports.
I don’t have many clear childhood memories but one that sticks so crisp is when I caught a wave, I kept riding it right into the shallow, then as the bottom of the board hit the sand it flipped me off and I went under. It was only a split second as it was shallow water. I got up, picked up the board and stormed up the beach towards my dad, who just burst out laughing as I stood in front of him with a face on, sulking and my hair stuck out, covered in sand.
During another Cornwall holiday, I remember having a go on the go karts. My mum was holding onto the sides as I zoomed around the track, shouting at every corner ‘slow down’! My need for speed was developing.
In my early 20’s I would sit on the beach and watch my friends and brother run off to the sea with their surf boards. This didn’t bother me a great deal as I was happy for them, I could imagine that it was a fantastic ability to have. But I always told myself, when I’m cured, first thing I’m doing is grabbing a board and running into the sea.
Few years later Tonic Surf came into my life and a cure was no longer needed
A friend of mine had heard about a few guys running surfing lessons down the Gower. I turned to Google, and instead of the Gower group Surfability, I came across a Pembrokeshire charity Tonic Surf. I emailed the organiser Kwame, and booked my first session. I surfed by lying down on the board, on my stomach and Kwame would jump on the back and ride the wave. But now we’ve moved onto a new board, designed by Surfability. What an amazing experience, and yes as the charity name says, it’s such a tonic experience, on the sea, out in the fresh air where your mind switches off from all your worries.
Leading up to my 30th birthday, I wrote a quick list of 30 things to do before I’m 30. Abseiling was on the list. I found an organisation that could not only make this accessible for me, but allowed me to do some rock climbing. Despite my bruised knees the whole experience was fun, and gave me the sense of achievement that I was able to join in and try something new with my friends
4 years ago, whilst living in Cardiff, I had the desire to get back to the gym. Despite having a PA to help, I couldn’t keep motivated and would often find excuses not to go. After a light bulb moment (I get them now and again) I got in touch with Richard Wilder, who turned out to be the best Personal Trainer. Rich got me motivated, kick-started my love for working out and I slowly started to build muscle, despite the doctor’s words ‘what you lose, you can’t get back’ . Leaving my PT was the hardest part about leaving Cardiff. I continue my promise to him of not giving up my training, by going to the gym three times a week.
After purchasing my recumbent handcycle a few years ago I have taken part in the Swansea 10k and I’ve recently cycled my alternative half marathon. These were events I didn’t think that would’ve been possible to take part in, despite the need to. Not only does completing these events boost my self confidence but also builds my upper strength.
Last year, I packed my wetsuit in the car and headed off to a water skiing camp with Access Adventure. I was a bit apprehensive, not knowing how my core would manage to keep me upright. The crew were amazing and offered great support and guidance so that I was able to ski independently by the second day. I can’t explain the buzz I received from it, I think the smile stayed with me for the following week. This month, I get to experience that feeling again, when I return to the camp.
Roughly 4 years ago, my best friend and I had a random idea (nothing unusual there) to buy a double sit on top kayak. Every chance we get we take it out on the water. To start with, I would sit in the back, but my friend realised I’d often stop paddling and enjoyed the ride. She got wiser, now I sit in the front ? It’s a fun and calming activity.
Last but not least, Skiing:
Adaptive ski Wednesday is the day that I refuel my positive energy. I have been attending the Ski4all Wales club for 15 months and can’t rave about it enough. From the amazing, enthusiastic staff and volunteers, to the thrill, adrenaline buzz and total freedom I feel when shooting down the slope, it’s an amazing place. Not only does it aid in building my strength but I have gained so much from the club, that it’s developed my personal growth.
As I continue to take part in these activities, I’m always on the lookout for something new to try. I have the belief that if you have the right tools then nothing is impossible. By looking at what I have, and continue to do, the one common factor is that each activity has been adapted, there is an alternative tool to ensure inclusion.
The reasons for why I stay active seem pretty obvious, through enjoyment I also build strength. And with each activity I am able to let go of thoughts and just be, in the moment. I work my body and mind.
16 years ago, that negative word that was drummed into me slowly faded, and now there’s only one word that I tell myself – I CAN.
For more information about women’s sport, check out and join Sport Wales’ Our Squad. You can find out more on oursquad.cymru or on social media Our Squad Cymru (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat)