A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

On Reflection

As it’s the first anniversary of the London Paralympics, I’ve been taking a bit of time out from the tandem to ponder whether the Games have affected me personally. I’m a part-time wheelchair user, (a tandem can only get you so far, unfortunately) and it’s when I consider my wheelchair that I realise I have been affected.IMG_0840

I’ve been a reluctant convert to the use of a wheelchair. Although I’d eventually got my head round the idea of using one for when I couldn’t just walk a small distance, I would cringe inwardly as I was wheeled around in my clunky chair.

I became enormously self-conscious at the thought of getting out of my chair and walking the last part of my journey, say into a cafe or, sometimes, down a flight of steps as it was just such a darned hassle to find an alternative route. I imagined horrified looks from passersby, believing me to be a fraud. I wanted a card to wave at such people, saying, ‘I’ve got MS, I can’t walk very far’.

Then I watched the Paralympics. I was totally hooked and soaked up everything there was to know about the athletes and their machines. David Weir, Hannah Cockcroft and Sarah Storey became familiar names, and I was awed by the brutality of Murderball and the agility of the wheelchair basketball players. I became a Paralympic geek.

I also noticed that sometimes a swimmer would walk to their starting position but would use a wheelchair after having given their all in the water, although the camera remained firmly on their exhausted face during the post-race interview.

I became an avid watcher of the Last Leg too: the programme that took a light hearted view of each day’s events. It was very funny! People with disabilities were laughing at funny things that happened in relation to their disabilities; and about anything else that made them – and anyone else – laugh. (I’m delighted that they’ve now got a regular series; a light hearted look at the previous week’s news by three blokes who happen to have only four legs between them.)

And then I found that I was getting severe wheelchair envy. I wanted to whizz about like these athletes! I realised that I was no longer seeing disabled people playing sport but athletes using wheelchairs as a means to an end. A wheelchair was just a piece of kit, like a car; it got you about. In fact, it was getting some of them about at great speed! If I wasn’t looking at their chairs (except with envy!) then maybe people wouldn’t be looking at my chair rather than me either.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have made one particular change though, to the wheelchair itself. After a final noble trip to Ghent (where the cobbles, although pretty, are totally impractical if you’re in a wheelchair) finally did for my chair (and very nearly me too!), it was quietly retired and I have acquired a sleek, black self-propelling one. I can now imagine myself to be a member of the wheelchair basketball team – so long as no one throws me a ball!

It doesn’t matter if anyone thinks they’ve seen a miracle if I get out of my chair to walk a little – they probably aren’t watching and I should skip down stairs when I can anyway! (Okay, ‘skip’ is a bit of a stretch but I liked the image!) I always have a seat when I want one, and I have also (almost!) embraced being wheeled at terrifying speed by one of the teenagers. A white-knuckle ride all of its own! IMG_0808

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4 thoughts on “On Reflection

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences of the Paralympics and how it has impacted on your life and more particularly your attitude to your wheelchair. You made me laugh – basketball without a ball – now that’s my type of sport!

  2. Wendy Lennon on said:

    mmmm only problem with para Olympics is us wheelchair users ae not as fit as they are!! Wish I was but…………….

  3. Wendy Lennon on said:

    Yes Mary, I often say ‘I still feel 25 in my head – unfortunately my body does not agree with my head!!”

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