Something happened last week which made myself ask a question. This question was:
'Do people actually care about something until it happens or affects them?'.
Lots of things along the way have made me ask this, but last week I found myself asking it again. At athletics I train with Ben; he is genuinely the most amazing boy I've met. Ben is only 11, and he only has one leg as he lost it to cancer, but he has such an amazing strength of character and he just gets on with things. I've always said that personally, age is no barrier when it comes to friendship, and I love spending time with Ben.
Ben is so speedy when it comes to doing laps of the track - in fact, he would lap me several times over! So, last week, when we were doing a warm up around the track, a 'kid' who was most definitely older enough to know better, came jogging up behind Ben and went 'oi, where's your leg?'.
Okay, you could argue that this 'kid' was geniunely curious, but he was definitely older enough to know at the very least not to run up to Ben and say it. However, lets say for one minute, this kid had one leg himself for whatever reason, I bet he would care if someone ran up to him and asked, 'oi, where's your leg?'.
I suppose this whole incident also relates to my 'Education, education, education' blog. If there was education on disability and disability awareness in schools/the national curriculum, would this whole incident have been avoided? The thing that also bothered me on Ben's behalf was the fact that he has been through such an ordeal with being ill and loosing his leg, and he appears to have just got on with it without a fuss, pushing himself to do athletics, and this 'kid' then just comes up to him and gives him that.
I've never been out on a proper night out because my 'friends' simply refuse to take me (note: these 'friends' are no longer my friends, it was obvious that my disability was a major issue to them so I cut them out after thinking long and hard!), even when I've asked them directly. I bet they would suddenly care if they had a physical disability themselves and to enable them to go out on a night out every once in a while, they just need a little help from their friends.
I could go on forever giving examples, whether it be from my own personal life and experiences, things I've seen on the news or TV, people I know etc. and whether it be about disability, illness, the elderly, politics etc. I don't know what other people's views and opinions are, but I just feel that we're now living in a world where on the whole, people don't necessarily care until it affects them personally or even those close to them.
I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but lets take the Boob Job vs SDR scenario; currently, people on the NHS can receive boob jobs, but children with Cerebral Palsy cannot receive SDR (an operation for children with a certain type of Cerebral Palsy, which can enable them to walk). Let's have a plot twist for one second and lets pretend that the big wig who decides what operations can be received on the NHS, has a child with Cerebral Palsy, and he/she could potentially benefit from SDR ... would SDR be available on the NHS and boob jobs scrapped off the list, because they care as it affects them and their child? ... Just saying.
Last week I went to see McBusted and I felt about 10-years-old again! I was on the CP Teens UK Twitter the other day, and to my amazement Matt Willis's younger sister follows ... and, she happens to have Cerebral Palsy! How did I never know this?!
Anyway, here's this week's guest blogger - Sarah Pearson, who is a GB Paratriathlete (is that a real word, or have I just made that up?!), with hemiplegia. I bumped into Sarah in Salcombe, Devon and I blogged about it back in February if anyone can remember? Here you go...
'Approximately 3-4 hours of packing, 6hrs of driving, one last 33minute interval run session and I'm flying to Basel on the Swiss border to pick up a hire car to drive to Besancon for my first event on the Paratriathlon ITU World Series 2014 season. I hope I can haul my bike box into the hire car!
Last season was a very steep learning curve; starting out with the thought of doing one triathlon (without any idea of what was really involved) and ending up by completing about 10 triathlons with the European Championships in Turkey being my 4th and 1st competitive sea swim!! To say it was all a bit of a whirlwind would be an understatement, but I was hooked! I liked the challenge of the different sports; even though swimming is a frustration beyond words. For some unknown reason, I had thought that as I could bike and run, adding swimming to complete the set would be straightforward... Errr, wrong!
Transition is almost a sport in itself, but it makes me think of a Christmas twist on pass the parcel that my Dad used to organise, where you had to put on hat, scarf and gloves before trying to open the parcel with a knife and fork when the music stopped. I have a feeling it was designed as another way of getting me to use my hand as much as possible but I might be wrong? I used to have to try not to giggle in transition when I first started as it's all I could think of and as children we would be in hysterics as we only just managed to pick up the knife and fork before the music started and we were still struggling to get the clothes off by the time it had been stopped again! Someone was always ripping the hat off your head!! I love the technicalities of transition and trying to work out the best and fastest way to do things. I like 'organised' and of course I can no longer afford to waste energy giggling :-)
It's also strange that Triathlon and the 2012 Paralympics were a bit of a light bulb. I had a completely free and happy childhood. My parents brought me up to have a go and encouraged me to find ways to do things if I couldn't manage it the same way as others. As far as I was concerned, I had a dodgy left side, which I didn't like much, but generally I had confidence to give things a go. I did gymnastics at a local club when I was primary school age; I couldn't do everything but again gave things my best shot and pretty much thought I'd won Olympic gold when I was awarded a BAGA badge. School was a testing time, I didn't find study easy and couldn't quite understand why nobody was keen to have me on their team for sports - for sure, I put in the effort, but the outcomes often resembled the Charlie Brown effect; funny now, but not so much then! I took to trying to cover up my hand; especially as I realised that was the thing people most easily noticed and prompted them to ask questions I wasn't sure how to answer. I was certain when watching the 2012 Paralympics that some Athletes resembled me in their movement and how they held their hand.
After my Mum died, within four years of contracting Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 57, I took part in a few charity run and bike challenges. Triathlon came about when another charity sporting challenge fell through and I wanted to make use of the training I had done. This was the point in which I thought, "ooo, I'll just add in swimming!", not realising I might have a few problems in transition. I contacted Paratriathlon to check the rules. Weeks later I found myself at a Paratriathlon Talent ID day having been asked to check my condition details with my GP for classification purposes; I had only been able to say I'd got a dodgy left side. I had developed an inkling and historical medical letters confirmed Cerebral Palsy, left side hemiparesis. It felt odd having a label for it after all this time! I’m not entirely sure that I wanted to label myself, after all I think that's what my parents had tried to avoid. But bigger still, to compete in Paratriathlon, I was going to have to come to terms with having help in transition... completely against my grain, my family will tell you that I rarely tolerate help. AND helpers are referred to as 'handlers'... to me this initially had a ring of 'circus act' about it! "I'm going to be handled?" I thought!
Training has been six days per week, approximately 10-12 hours, which is tricky to fit in around work and family time. On top of this, there should really be about 1 hour a day stretching and strength work along with regular visits for Physio or sports massage. It was all getting a bit much and just before the start of this season my right side 'broke'… well that's what it felt like, it just seized up! I was a bit scared as my lower back wasn't happy, and I was also disappointed as I could see the start of a new season slipping away. Almost camping at the Physio's and struggling through training sessions, I nearly threw in the towel at the end of March 2014, a real low point. I'm not sure where (talking to a few friends and family certainly helped) but I found something to make me carry on and as I pushed a bit harder the spiral started to spin in a positive direction again, things aren't 'A1' but they are better and I'm managing them.
I knew I couldn't carry on skimping on stretching, warm down and recovery time and luckily my employer Remploy were keen to support me by providing more flexible time, which is helping enormously. So here I am, in Besancon France for the first event, and the season with London and the Europeans in Kitzbuhl to follow, and maybe somewhere after that!... @sarahpearson70