As you've probably noticed, I'm starting to have a little bit more time on my hands now the University year is coming to an end (how quickly did that go?!). One by one, assessments are being handed in and summer is coming closer & closer. I only last blogged 10 days a go, which shows that time is on my side a bit more. Over the summer, I hope to return to blogging every week for you as I did before I started University. Unfortunately though, come September, it will probably become a tad irregular again. But, as you know, nothing will stop me blogging, even if it is in-between about 10 essays!
I will do an 'official' round up of my first year at University (with a comedy twist, as per!) in the next couple of weeks for you. I know a lot of you are off to University in September, and my best advice is look at every thing from a funny point of view! If you read some of my blogs back in September/October time, you may remember some of my funny 'CP moments'! The one that sticks in my mind the most was when there was quite a deep, concrete step for me to get up on campus. This step was an outside step, it had no handrail and it had been raining, meaning it was actually quite slippery. I had no choice other than to attempt this step - it was the only way up to these 'temporary' (they appear to be pretty permanant!) log cabins, which had seminar rooms in. I led with my right leg, brought it up onto the step and expected my leg left to follow ... except, it didn't, it wouldn't budge! I literally stood there like some sort of flamingo with one leg in the air thinking, 'erm, what shall I do now?!'.
I have just been doing one of my essays for one of my modules, and I really don't know how, but whilst I was 'researching' (more like Googling and hoping for the best!) I came across Stephen Sutton - how I got here from looking at social issues in sport, I really don't know! I'm sure you've all heard of Stephen Sutton and #StephensStory, and if you haven't, you live under a rock! I watched his video, which he made and it went viral. Stephen had bowel cancer, and he asked in his video, "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But, what do you do when life gives you cancer?". He then went on to show all the amazing things he had done since his cancer diagnosis, and how the illness doesn't define him as a person.
This got me thinking about the amount of people who have virtually asked me "What do you do when life gives you Cerebral Palsy?". Admittedly, they don't put it as bluntly as that, but the implication is that 'Cerebral Palsy must stop me living my life, and it defines who I am' ... well, no, actually! So, what do you do when life gives you Cerebral Palsy? My answer? Carry on regardless, it doesn't matter. Why would I want to sit at home, on the sofa, just because I have Cerebral Palsy?
Of course, my situation is completely different to Stephen's. I have a form of brain damage, which causes Cerebral Palsy, and a few other very minor issues (I literally cannot do Maths and apparently this is to do with my frontal lobes or something?!) because of where the damage is. Stephen unfortunately had cancer. However, what he said in his video, I really identified with. For example:
- "I don't see the point of measuring life in terms of time anymore, I think we should measure life in terms of acheivements.". Unfortunately, Stephen said this as he knew his time was limited. Now, I am not planning on going anywhere any time soon (although, I have had people before who think I'm about to 'pop my clogs' 'because I have Cerebral Palsy' ... oh please go and get an education!), but just like anyone else, nobody knows what is around the corner. I know I'm virtually going to have a body of a 95 year old when I'm in my 40's ... well, probably not to that extreme, but it's one of mine & Laura's (who I met through CP Teens UK) favourite CP jokes! But, I think it's an idea that everyone needs to get into their head, whoever they are. Go out and do something, don't put it on hold! I saw the London 2012 Paralympics and thought, 'right, I'm going to get myself into a sport, I'd love to do Athletics'. And, without sounding big headed, I am now ranked 6th in the UK for Club Throw, I'm doing a sports degree, and training for selection in the World Games! I know it could be a case of 'right place, right time', but make sure you're in the right place in the first place - the right time will follow!
- "The fact that life seems unfair at times fuels my motivation to make the world a better place.". This reminds me of all the reasons behind CP Teens UK. Now, I'm a realist - I know I am never going to be able to 'convince' every able-bodied teenager & young person, or anybody of any age with a narrow mind, that we are just 'normal' people with certain physical difficulties who want and need to be included. Sad, but true. However, it doesn't stop me getting upset and angry about it, and it doesn't stop me wanting to do something about it. CP Teens UK was born in a complete 'sod it' moment, little did I know how great this 'sod it' moment would become. I was fed up at being completely disregarded by the people who I thought were my friends. I became even more angry when I discovered over my own personal social media that it wasn't just me who felt like this. I was also really frustrated at the lack of opportunities coming our way, just because we 'wobble'. The fact that life seemed so unfair through the sheer bad attitude of others fuelled my motivation to try & make things a little bit better, as Stephen picked up upon in his video. Now, I never knew CP Teens UK was going to become the organisation it has become, it has grown beyond my wildest dreams. And, I suppose Stephen never imagined #StephensStory was going to go viral (which it totally deserved to!). We now live in a world where nobody wants to stand up and go "no, actually, that's not okay" - but, you never know where it might lead!
- "Bad things happen, but it's how you react to these things that define who you really are.". Now, personally, I would never say that Cerebral Palsy is a 'bad thing'. However, I have friends with Cerebral Palsy who would do anything for it to be gone tomorrow. I am not like that, if a 'miracle cure' came out, I wouldn't be in the queue to have it. But, I would say how you react to it as a person is quite defining. To me, there's absolutely no point sulking about it - no amount of sulking will make it disappear! I take the view, you have to accept & move on, building your life around Cerebral Palsy. Use Cerebral Palsy as a strength - would I be a national athlete if I didn't have Cerebral Palsy? Probably not. Only yesterday, I was down at the EIS (where I train) with University. I got a text from my coach saying 'come outside for 10 minutes'. I sneakily said I 'needed the toilet', and Adam & I were coming up with loads of CP jokes as to why my 'trip to the toilet' took so long - unfortunately, they're unrepeatable on here! The local BBC News crew was there, who I've done lots of work with through having Cerebral Palsy, and it was kisses & hugs all round - a small thing I know, but it probably wouldn't happen to your everyday person. And, just because he'll be reading this, I wouldn't even know my coach, Adam, if I didn't have Cerebral Palsy. Adam & I are very close friends through me being one of his athletes, and if I gave up Athletics tomorrow (not going to happen anytime soon though!) we'd still remain close. It is most definitely all about waking up every morning (or afternoon in my case!) and not letting Cerebral Palsy or whatever it is stop anything ... as long as you're realistic - no tightrope walking, that would end in tears!
We could be here for absolutely days if I listed all the positive things I've done because of having Cerebral Palsy, and okay, the list of negatives would probably be just as long - but, that doesn't matter, that's life. Let the positives outweigh the negatives. It's up to you to make that choice. I was only looking down my Facebook friends list the other day and I have 184 friends on there with Cerebral Palsy, some through sport and some through CP Teens UK - surely this is a massive positive? That's 184 individual people I would have never crossed paths with if I hadn't have had Cerebral Palsy.
Anyway, this is turning into one of those 'inspirational posts'. I am most definitely not trying to be 'inspirational' - people who think I am can get jogging! I'm only outlining how some of Stephen's video reminded me a bit of CP Teens UK etc. It makes me laugh when people use the word 'inspirational' in relation to me! Really?! I chuck bits of wood out on a field for fun and try & pass a degree whilst sat on Facebook, and begging Google for help most of the time! The only thing that is 'inspirational' about me is my love of food, drink and sleep ... I'm 100% committed!
I must now get back to my University work - only 1 week to go! So, next time I blog, it should be the round up of my first year! At one point, I thought I wasn't going to get there, but I think it is pretty safe to say that with just 1 week to go, I think I'll accomplish year 1! For now, I'd like to introduce Gavin Drysdale as guest blogger. Gavin is a RaceRunner, and I am so looking forward to meeting him at a competition in May in Manchester!
"The Ability To Run!
Hi, my name is Gavin Drysdale and I am a Scottish teenager. I was born with cerebellar ataxia (a type of cerebral palsy which affects my speech, my balance and my fine motor skills). I am a five-time world record holder in the developing sport of RaceRunning for the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m.
I believe that disability is not a barrier! Okay, sometimes you do have to accept you cannot do certain things and you need support. There is always something else that will suit your talents! One way or another, you can achieve almost anything if you set your mind to it!
This is my story about how RaceRunning changed my life…
Before I found RaceRunning, I was isolated and lost. All I wanted to do when I was younger was play sport. I could not hit a tennis ball, I could not swim, and I did not have the coordination to cycle a bike. I could not even go out with my friends to run about the park. Everything I tried, I seemed to be rubbish at.
It was a physiotherapist from Belgium who first introduced me to the amazing sport. When I first tried a running bike at the age of 5, I instantly fell in love with the sense of independence and the freedom that I had discovered. It opened my eyes.
For those who don’t know, a running bike is a three-wheeled bike with no pedals. It has a chest plate and a saddle which supports you while you walk or run. It is designed for people who have mobility problems. The tiniest of movements is enough to propel a running bike.
I was the first person to have a running bike in Scotland. I was shocked that more people had not come across this brilliant sport. After three years of training by myself, I was getting fed up and desperately wanting to race against someone who had a running bike.
In 2010, I competed at the International RaceRunning Cup in Copenhagen, Denmark. I went there with very little experience of being on an athletics track with other people on wheels so I did not know what to expect! I broke 2 world records for my age group in my classification!
That was the moment that my life was changed forever…
I returned to an overwhelming response. I featured in local newspapers and I was interviewed on the local radio station which was great for the sport’s publicity.
In late 2010, my parents set up the A.C.E RaceRunning Club (the first in the UK) after high demand for the running bike at 'come and try' events.
Five years on, there are over 10 different locations across Scotland doing RaceRunning. There are also now opportunities to try a bike in Cardiff and several locations in England via CP Sport!
RaceRunning has given me so many opportunities that I never thought I would experience such as visiting new countries, meeting so many new friends, competing on a level playing field, improving my fitness and the best of all, the opportunity to run!
RaceRunning has not yet reached Paralympic status but I am a determined to get it there!"