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“I can still play the game.”
I play wheelchair rugby for the Bournemouth Lions, and I'm playing against a lot of people who are stronger and faster than me because they only have lower body injuries, or spinal injuries, or versions of cerebral palsy.
So, they are beefcakes racing around, and I've got a progressive illness, but I'm motivated to try and catch up. I never will catch up, but I'm less slow than I was and that's wonderful.
Last year I did a Tough Mudder. I've jumped out of planes as many times as my wife will let me. Doesn't mean everybody has to play wheelchair rugby and jump out of planes, but if you find your passion, life can be so good.
I was diagnosed in 2007. I probably had ‘MS light’ for four or five years and then my mobility really went downhill. So I went from walking, to walking drunk, to walking with a stick, to crutches, to where I am now, which is a walker and wheelchair. I've gone into a secondary progressive MS.
I think every father is going to say their children are the most important things in their life. I had to adapt the way I can be a good father to my sons, but I think I manage. I have a very funky wheelchair that gets me off-road so I can still adventure on the beaches, I can still go into the woods, I can still throw snowballs at them. And we’ve done an awful lot of reading over the years.
My wife and I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage – she has been wonderful through my MS journey, though I know it has been tough for her.
I work for a charity called Shift.ms, which is all about helping people with MS, especially the newly diagnosed. I do public speaking when I get the chance, and I campaign an awful lot on social media. As my MS has progressed, it has become more valuable to me on a personal level because when I am stuck at home, unable to get out to events, I have a support network of people that I've never met, but that I depend upon.
I think there are a lot of clichés around MS. Once people see you in a wheelchair, they don't imagine anything else that's going on with you.
There's fatigue, and pain, and all sorts of fun and games that go on behind the scenes. But I think people also feel sorry for us, and well, thanks for the sympathy and all that, but I'm still having fun and being productive. I think the most important thing is your life's not over. It's just different.
I don't want to be seen as that bloke in a wheelchair. I’m a dad, a husband, a friend, a campaigner. And a middle-aged rugby player!
“The brighter, the better.”
“I do everything people say you shouldn’t do.”
“I love being out there.”
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”
“This doesn’t stop me being a dad.”
“If you’re not happy with yourself, you’re not happy.”
“I see life through many lenses.”
UK | October 2020 | MUL20-C021b(1)