Initial Contact with Brookes

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Simon Mace 3

Getting in touch with Oxford Brookes


As my recovery progressed I was finding it increasingly difficult to accept being stuck at home. Getting around was very difficult and the feeling of isolation was frequent. Using a wheelchair was something I wanted to leave behind, but I had to accept that I was still very weak with an awful lot of lower limb paralysis. Falling over was a regular occurrence.


Visitors used to congratulate me on beating cancer, regularly suggesting movies and TV shows I should watch, and frequently bringing me cakes as a form of comfort or reward. I appreciated the kind gesture, but I wanted more. I wanted to return to some kind of normality.


At the same time I was also aware that I had taken so much from the health care system. Operations, hospital days, consultants, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists etc. This gave me an overwhelming urge and desire to start spending my time constructively whilst also getting fitter and stronger to ensure that as the years went by my life could remain as active as possible.


I sent out a blanket email - including one that went to Oxford Brookes University - stating in brief what I had been through with my health. I hoped that I could volunteer the experience I had gained throughout my battle with cancer and ongoing recovery in order to contribute in some way, perhaps to give something to the students.


I also wanted to see if there was any way shape or form that I could connect with the sport and fitness departments to help me get back into exercise and recover what fitness I could, as at this point in my recovery I was still very weak, walked very poorly with sticks, and still had paralysed feet - as they will remain for life.


It was a while before I heard back from Brookes. First contact came by way of a telephone conversation and after speaking with a couple of different departments I eventually got a call from Peter Wright (Programme Lead for Sport, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences). Peter explained how my initial email had come to his attention and invited me into Brookes to hear about my story and ongoing challenges.


I met with Peter at the Uni over a coffee where I took up about two hours of his time telling the entire story from the day I collapsed, going through the extent of my hospital stay, my acceptance of using a wheelchair, and going through to walking with sticks, explaining that I wanted to progress further and further.


Peter was overwhelmed by my story and said that he felt I had something that I could definitely give to students with my knowledge of disability, and my desire and enthusiasm to get involved with exercise to get myself a strong as possible for the rest of my life. It just so happened that he was also getting a cancer rehab programme off the ground that he wanted me to get involved with.


From here my connection with Brookes has grown, all stemming from being sat at home in a chair after many months of being housebound and deciding I wanted to do more


The first step was to visit Brookes Sport, where Peter had arranged to assess, in a very gentle way, what my strength was and what my limitations and capabilities were. I spent a few minutes on the bike and did a few gentle stretches, always being mindful that I might fall, as was now a regular occurrence for me.


From here my connection with Brookes has grown, all stemming from being sat at home in a chair after many months of being housebound and deciding I wanted to do more – that I wanted to improve my mobility and strength, and also give something back to society, when I felt that I had taken so much.


My open email to the University asking if I could participate in any way has led to me having the most amazing connection with Brookes, and an outstanding network of support, especially with Peter Wright.