Last week I went to the opening of the Paralympics in London. I felt very privileged to be at this once in a life time event and I was awed by the bravery and the enterprise of the people of so many nations who, despite often devastating disability, had managed to rise to such an exalted level of sporting achievement.
That made me think about people who cope with illness and disability in whatever way they can to make the most of their lives.
One such person that I met recently has started a website for brain tumour survivors www.aunty-m-brain-tumours.co.uk
She did this after she herself had a brain tumour removed while she was in her early twenties. For an active and attractive girl with the world at her feet this was a devastating blow. And once the drama of the surgery was over and people who had been holding their breath for her had exhaled, she was left to cope with seizures, blinding headaches, crippling tiredness, mood swings and impaired vision that dogged her daily life.
When she should have been riding high with a promising career ahead of her she was, instead, afraid to go out in case she had a seizure. She tried to work but just could not keep up with the pace. She longed to drive again but after months of waiting her hopes were finally dashed, for good. Frustration almost overwhelmed her. But this was a girl who was going to fight back! She looked around for support and found loads of facts and figures and articles about brain tumours. The information and support she wanted, was hard to come by. She envisioned a place where fellow suffers could meet for a moan or a laugh and a joke, where the emphasis was more on recovery than on dealing with the mechanics, diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours. So she decided to make a site herself. And so aunty M (that stands for meningioma) was born. She is about to publish her autobiography and you can see details of that and a lot of other useful and inspiring information on the aunty M site.
As the huge sporting fest that we have enjoyed this summer through first the Olympic games and now the Paralympics, I think that the impact on all of us will be long lasting. For those parents with disabled children, the Paralympics presents a new and perhaps unexpected avenue for their child to explore. For those of us unfortunate enough to be disabled through accident or illness, there is the inspiration from those athletes many from countries much less developed than ours, who have managed to excel despite their disabilities. And to all of us, able bodied and disabled, there is that very important word on which the world turns – hope.
You can see the website address for aunty M on the blog on UK radio.
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