Friday, April 22, 2011


We all celebrate certain days for some reason, whether it be weddings, birthday's, graduations, actually whatever we want to celebrate.  Well tomorrow is a celebration for me, April 23rd, it's the day that I celebrate the date of my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  Now some of you are probably wondering why I say I celebrate that day and hopefully when you finish reading this blog you will understand.

On the 23rd of April 1998 at 2:15 p.m. I walked into the most uncaring neurologists office you could ever imagine.  He was an older gentleman and obviously was stressed and overworked as he ushered me into the examination room in a gruff and hurried manner.  Now let me put things into perspective, I was there by myself because all my symptoms had disappeared and I assumed that there was nothing wrong with me, so I had told my husband Russ not to come with me.

He ushered me to a chair and said "Come on sit down, sit down", pulled out this huge bit of film from an envelope (my MRI scan), held it to the light and said "Well you have too many leisons on your brain for someone your age, so you have MS".  As I tried to comprehend this statement he continued almost without taking a breath "So basically your life as you know it is over, you will never do sport again, you will have to quit work and go on a whole bunch of drugs and I would suggest you go home and put your affairs in order before you become incapacitated."  He took a small breath and then said "you will have to go back to your own GP because I don't have time for you as a patient, I have enough patients already with MS."  I still had not been able to say anything and at this point said one word "What?"  with a bit of apprehension in my voice.  He continued  with "you heard me you have MS, go see your own doctor."  With this last sentence he stood up, with the film envelope in his hand, walked to the door and opened it.  He then said "hurry up I have other patients waiting".  As I got up from my chair in shock and walked towards him he handed me the envelope and then said "see my secretary on the way out."   As I walked out it was 2:17 p.m., needless to say I wanted to shove that envelope where the sun doesn't shine and I walked straight out the front door, not stopping at his secretary's office.  To this day I do not remember driving home that day and I honestly believe that if I hadn't been brought up the way I was, it could very well have been the end of my life that day.

I am very lucky that I have an extremely caring GP who has been there at every turn for me.  He found me another neurologist and got me information from the MS Society.  I am also lucky that I have a husband who said to me "you don't have it, we have it and we will deal with it."

Life went on pretty much as normal for the next couple of years, but then my introduction to disability began.  With that I had to make some pretty tough decisions about leaving full time employment.  Retrospectively it was probably the best decision I have ever made.  I think that the worst part of this disease to come to terms with is the unpredictability.  It can diminish the quality of life and it creates a world of neverending uncertainty.  But I do believe that life is what we make of it.  It is not a matter of being dealt a good hand but more so the ability to play a poor hand well.

Throughout my life I have been involved in sport and after being told that I would never do sport again I was devastated.  But instead of believing that his would be a reality I figured out how to deal with a life of MS incorporating sport.  I worked out systems and ways to do what I had to do in order to continue with sport. 

 I have even been able to take up new sports and I look at obstacles as stepping stones towards my goals.  One of life's certainties is that nothing ever stays the same.  I believe that the only way to move forward is to change your perspective, see things in a different way.  I honestly believe it is up to the individual person to create a mindset that seeks solutions, that looks for opportunities rather than obstacles.  By doing this I have found excitement and hope instead of fear for the future.

If I had the chance to go back and change history, I wouldn't.  MS may have taken things away from me, but it has also given me a lot that I would have never experienced and those experiences have made me the person I am today.

Having MS has taught me some valuable lessons:
1. Nothing is impossible if you dare to face your fears and believe in yourself.
2. To love the journey and not the destination, because today is the only day you are guaranteed.
3. To live life as if it is a terminal illness, because if you do you will live it with the passion that it ought to be lived.
4. To see every difficulty as a challenge, a stepping stone and never be defeated by anything or anyone.

You know that first neurologist was so wrong on all counts except one...My life is over as I knew it...but not in a bad way.  Yes I deal with the symptoms of MS every day but I believe that great days are those that you make that way and the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do!

This is why tomorrow I will raise a glass to my MS, celebrate and thank it for giving me the life I have.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I subscribe to a website called Simple Truths and a couple of days ago I received an email called "One Choice".  The first line hit me like a ton of bricks, it was " Think about this for a choice, just one, can change your life forever."   Boy how true is that statement!!!

Life can be funny, for the last 5 years I have been training my butt off rowing.  My ultimate goal, London Paralympics 2012.  It had been Beijing in 2008 but unfortunately our crew missed out on a spot by about 0.8 seconds.  I initially thought that dream was over but decided to take it one year at a time.  As I got better at my chosen sport and made it to World Championship level in 2009 where our crew came 6th, I realized that my dream just might possibly come true.  Just to represent my country at that level would be amazing.  As a child I dreamed of representing Canada at the Olympics as a swimmer, but this dream also didn't come true, not for lack of trying but because of politics.  So I have continued to push my body to do things that I never thought I could accomplish and I have had some amazing people to help me along the way. 

Unfortunately during the past year and a half there have been a number of things that have stood in my way and even though I believe that we can still get a crew together to get there, there are certain people who do not!  So in January I purchased a racing Trike and started using it as cross training to get to rowing.  Little did I know that this "One Choice" would be a turning point in my sporting career!

Every April in Australia, rowing selection trials are held for the World Championships and once again the rowers who had nominated in my category were denied the chance to attend.  So I decided to compete in the Australian Para-cycling Championships on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.  I entered the Time Trial and the Road Race.  But yes...I am the only classified female Trike rider in Australia!  This was no deterent to me as Cycling Australia had speed times listed on their website in order to qualify for the Australian Team.  So I set my goals to not only make this speed but smash it!  Which is what I was able to do.

The Time Trial is something you do on your own against the clock but in the Road Race I at least had the male Trike rider to race against and what a race it was!  At the start Stephen, the other rider, took off and I thought that I would be left for dead.  Lucky for me I am a competitive person because I was able to catch up to him and the fact that my Trike is 22 kg's and his was 14 kg's I was able to absolutely blow by him on the downhills!  He kept catching me on the uphill and the race was on.  We had to complete two laps and this leap frogging continued throughout the entire race.  On the last lap, at the last corner, he took off and it was at that time that I thought he had been holding out on me!  But again as I saw the 1km to go mark I decided that the race was not over and I managed to catch him.  The last 400m was a sprint to the finish and in the end I was able to get him by a wheel, in fact 1 second!

Even though I was the only female I was still awarded with medals to celebrate my success.

The best thing is that I was able to smash the qualifying speed set by Cycling Australia and the sweetest email I received on Monday was that I had been named to the Australian Team for the Para-cycling World Cup in Sydney in May!

So that "One Choice" to purchase that Trike and take part in the racing has probably changed my life!  That goal of getting to London is looking better all the time! 

I still love rowing and will continue with that pursuit as well.  I am giving myself two chances because I will not let my dream die!

So what changes to you want to make in your life?  Remember that you are always "One Choice" away from changing your life!