I've always been accident prone, according to the doctors I am ‘hyper mobile', which in not too technical terms, means I overextend my limbs so I tend to go over my ankles on a regular basis. On some occasions it makes for a funny party-trick and on the less amusing days it means a trip to the hospital again. My medical file is the kind that needs its own trolley to be carted around the wards.
In summer 2012 I took a spectacular trip from the second top stair in my house and hit most of my body on the way down. I remember feeling embarrassed as I always do, but the burning humiliation only rose so far up my neck before the pain kicked in. This time it was more than a few bumps and a bruised ego. I hit my spine against the edge of a stair, bluish-purple bruising began to appear as I was biting back the tears, and I later found I had cracked ribs and several sprains.
At the time I was due to hand in my notice in my sales job to go on a sabbatical, and I was not about to let another accident stop my trip to Hong Kong-Singapore-South Africa. At twenty-nine years old, it was to be my thirtieth present to myself after a tough year. The doctor had said a serious sprain can take a long time to heal, so I thought fresh air, vitamin D and lots of time to relax would help the healing process far more than sitting at a desk, so I booked my flights and off I went.
I had an amazing few months and loved exploring the beautiful places, taking photographs, meeting new people and spending time with friends who lived there. I've lived abroad before so the long flights were nothing new, but I was conscious the pain in my back and knee wasn't going away. After an incredible adventure, I returned home and I had enough savings to continue my ‘time out’ and focused on healing and thinking about a new career. Much of this time was spent walking and people watching and I worked on what later became my first published novel.
In late 2013 I was sent for my second MRI from a different angle and the results contradicted the first one. Prior to the scans, the theories had ranged from a smashed knee-cap through to nerve damage in my spine which could require surgery. By this point I had seen countless doctors and consultants, an orthopaedic surgeon and knee specialist, physiotherapists and even spent eight weeks attending a pain management class. They told me to give up intense exercise, but after a year a half of no gym or boxing which I had loved, I was getting tired of pill-popping and the restlessness was driving me up the wall.
I was never a Lycra-wearing, gym-bunny but I was always active and looking for new challenge. I had already been sky diving, scuba diving, mountain climbing, paint balling, white water rafting and other adventures in the UK and whilst travelling.
It was slow progress at first and I felt exhausted most days, but I began to build my stamina and confidence. I set myself small targets and took each day at a time – if the pain was too much I took a few days out and had lots of baths with Epsom salts. I did Yoga to help strengthen my core, went for (slow) jogs, regular swimming, and some terrible dancing moves in the living room to my wii-fit.
As my confidence in my fitness and health began to grow so did other areas in my life. I set up my own business Make Me A Success and now work as a self-employed business writer. I work with small start-ups and multi-national companies and love every day as it varies so much – I could be working with a new business to create their unique selling point one day, writing an article for a blog the next and then the following day helping an existing business kick start with their rebranding.
My hours are far more flexible than 9-5 which means I may be working in the evenings, but it gives me the freedom to do other things including training to become a volunteer Teen Mentor with Move On Charity and taking part in twelve charity challenges in 2014. Charity work is close to my heart after the wonderful care and support my grandmother received in her last few years. I donate blood regularly and am on the organ donation and Anthony Nolan registers. I know how important it is to give back and after spending time unable to do the things I love, I want to help others achieve whatever their dreams may be.
My first big fitness challenge after my accident was climbing 3,196ft to the top of Ben Lomond with a charity foundation in a team of ten including football player Nacho Novo. I had climbed it before but not with an injury so I knew it was a risk. When we reached the summit, I felt a sense of relief but also pride that my body hadn't let me down. My team inspired me to do something I thought I could never do and a few days later I signed up to an event called Tough Mudder.
This annual event takes place around the world and is a 12mile course with military style obstacles designed by the British Special Forces which helps to raise funds for Help for Heroes. I was dreading the obstacle known as Artic Enema, which is a large container of ice and freezing water where I had to climb in and submerge myself underneath a row of floating tyres to get to the other side. My mind was screaming at me to get out, my heart was racing and it felt like my body had gone in to shock and was shutting down.
We were only a third of the way in to the course and suddenly I knew if I couldn't do this, I may as well go home. I pushed under the surface and kicked until I was under the tyres and broke through the surface on the other side. My face was numb and I couldn't see for water pouring down over my eyes – all I could feel was this ice cold sensation like brain freeze rushing up through the centre of my body. Climbing out of that tank was the greatest feeling and not just because the sun gave a little heat to my frozen bones – I had done it and suddenly it felt like all the disappointment and frustration at my own body’s failings disappeared.
When my team crossed the finish line and we received our orange headbands and Tough Mudder t-shirts, I felt so proud of myself and all the other Mudders and grateful to everyone who had supported us. I'm not suggesting for a minute that anyone ignores medical advice or stops recommended treatment, but I made the decision for myself to start living my life again. For now I'm working on a very exciting concept, which will bring my charity work and business together to help others, and I hope to include a shark dive and flying lessons in my 2015 challenges!