"Shropshire, one of England’s areas of outstanding natural beauty became my backdrop for growing up and being immersed into the countryside in the 70’s. From an early age my brother and I were taught about fishing, simple foraging and the wildlife. The area we live in, is very close to the Welsh border which made our annual holidays to the Welsh coast an easy one. Our family enjoyed walking the small winding coastal paths and that I believe that is what fuelled my passion for walking. Being away and distancing myself from the noise and pollution that you have with living in built up areas seemed to be my answer to happiness, yet life does throw the odd curve ball.
I’d trained and qualified to become a plumbing and heating engineer and had already planned my life out by the age of twenty. At twenty one I’d met my wife and my whole world was happy, then one snowy morning whilst we were both traveling to work we were pushed off the road by a speeding lorry, our car overturned and landed on its roof with the roof of the car crushed around my head….the lorry didn’t stop.
Apart from the whiplash I’d believed we had been extremely lucky and even the firemen were amazed we had climbed out of the wreckage with hardly a scratch. It wasn’t until a month or two later that I noticed I had became uncomfortable standing and my back had started to have a constant ache. I’d also started experiencing fatigue which was put down to depression from the near death incident. With my continuing back problems I had to change my job to something less physical and got a job in a local plumbing merchants. But even with this change I was still struggling along, depression took hold and I found it difficult to concentrate.
Over the years my health declined, my weight had increased and I had to wear a neck brace to ease my increasing pain. I was reliant on a walking stick and I had lost some of the fine motor control in my hands. I now had developed a list of different health symptoms, was believing I had become a hypochondriac and that it was impossible to have so many things go wrong with my body. I had started to give up hope until I visited a GP that actually listened. He arranged for a lead neurologist to oversee some tests at Shrewsbury hospital. The test results revealed I had Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue and spinal disc problems especially in the neck area, they had disintegrated and needed urgent surgery. The diagnosis surprisingly came as a relief as it proved I wasn’t making things up! I wasn’t crazy! And there were known treatments to help ease some of the problems I’d been experiencing.
Several months after having a prosthetic disc placed in my neck I was full of enthusiasm to take back my life, I knew I wasn’t going to be 100% but I needed to do something… anything! I decided on trying something way beyond my previous reach, Climbing Snowdon… without any aids.
Before I embarked on my challenge I arranged to get the ok from my amazing GP, unfortunately he wasn’t available and I had to see one of his colleagues who basically just shook his head at me, his words were “you can’t do it, you need to face reality and accept disability”. It was like a kick to the gut, I was furious. Unless safety is the issue, I shall decide I if I can or can’t do something.
I started to build my strength up by climbing hills local to me like Haughmond Hill and the Wrekin. Then when I was feeling ready I tackled the larger Clee hills in south Shropshire. Then it was time for Snowdon...
My wife ‘Carolynne’ and I set out armed with a few friends. It was the wettest it had been all year with a pea soup fog hampering our vision, yet it did nothing to dampen our mood. It was extremely slow going and I’m truly grateful to the show of patience that my friends displayed as I’m sure they could have been up and down before I’d even reached the halfway mark!
We eventually got to the ridge and rewarded ourselves with a hot cuppa and cake as we were all totally drenched! Although the view was made difficult by the weather we did get the occasional breathtaking glimpses of the valleys when the fog momentarily parted. Eventually several hours later we had all made it back down to the start together and felt exhausted but immense exhilaration at the fact we had all overcome our own personal battles."
What goals do have you in the future or are you currently working towards?
"Over the years my health has unfortunately continued to fail and I have now had to lower my physical expectations on what I believe is achievable for me. I have since taken up fishing again and spend as much time as possible on my local River Severn lapping up the scenery and atmosphere around me. The local authority has great plans for making the river and surrounding countryside more accessible to the disabled. I also spend time visiting the many miles of local canal and ancient meres usually accompanied by my wife Carolynne, my granddaughter Sophie and my trusty dog Ed.
Although I have more bad days than good days due to my health challenges I try when I can to push myself to spend some time outside in our beautiful countryside and soak in the atmosphere. I find that being outside helps to improve my mood and allows me to focus on something other than my constant pain."
What advice would you give someone facing a similar situation?
"I do believe that having the right mindset is needed to accomplish happiness and wellbeing although also being close to the wild helps me personally in my constant battle against pain and other health problems.
It just shows that you should never let someone tell you what you can or can’t do, that’s not their choice, discover your own limits, set your own goals."