“I have always been a positive person, strong willed and with a zest for life. I was brought up in Wales, and come from a large family. My father always taught me to embrace the outdoor life, whatever the weather, and that way you will always be fit and healthy, have a very strong will, never give up and always be able to laugh at yourself. I studied hard at school and university, and enjoyed outdoor sports that most children would never have the experience of trying: abseiling, canoeing, camping, rock climbing, riding, athletics, triathlon etc. I even ran in the cross country for the Wales under 15's team, swam competitively, completed in triathlons and steeplechased.
“I adopted my son from overseas in 1993, a new mum after trying for seven years. He was a beautiful baby aged nine months with huge eyes like saucers. Whilst overseas I contracted Hepatitis C from the water supply, and this seemed to start a chain reaction of events that sent my body into shutdown. It hit me like an express train, without stopping. I was diagnosed after two years with Diffuse Systemic Sclerosis, with an overlap of liver problems and Lupus. As far as I was concerned my life was over, I was only 32 years old."
“How do you come back from that?"
“I lost all my mobility, and was totally reliant for others for everything, I was unable to eat and was peg fed for nearly three years. I had vasculitis, my body was covered in sores, Lupus, lichen planus in my mouth, and liver failure, and was weighing just 38 kilos. How do you come back from that? Well I spent six months in hospital. I couldn't even hold my new baby who I had waited so long for, and told I would never be able to walk again, or be independent again. I spent three years so determined to get better and prove everyone wrong. I was even more determined to be a good mother, and do the things I loved to do most of all, but I have always believed as my father had taught me, anything is possible if you try hard enough."
Focusing on the positives
“Thankfully, I have a very supportive family who helped me through the rough times, and friends who would walk through fire for me, and I love them all very much, but that little being, who is now a 23-year old strapping young man, drove me to determination beyond belief. It was a very hard road, but I had an army of soldiers fighting behind me.
“I am not saying life is easy now, I had to give up my blossoming career in the NHS, and there are endless hospital appointments, but I still get to do the things I love to do most. I can watch my lovely son develop into a fine young man, I get to do sports with many adaptations. I get to go out in the fresh air, and watch the seasons come and go, and watch the nature the new chicks, birds nesting, everything is a wonder and I get to see it all. I have my ups and downs, good and bad health, but my coping skills are: let's see what's in store tomorrow, next week and next month, and that's what I focus on the positives not the negatives."
Adapt – and keep going!
“Playing sport in the cold can be a challenge, but you get around that one too. As I had to give up athletics, I had to find a sport that I could do, not easy, but my husband, is a very keen golfer. He's really good too! He suggested that I give golf a try. Well nothing is impossible. First challenge holding the club, second challenge swinging it, and turning your body, forth walking around the course. As I said nothing is impossible. I don't have a conventional swing, I can't turn the left side of my body so my left foot comes up, and I use a golf buggy to get around. I love every minute of it. I discovered a fantastic golf club, in Barnet, North London, who are disabled friendly, nothing is too much trouble to accommodate me, The course is owned by a lovely family, who also host the Disabled Golf Open. I also belong to the Disabled Golf Association, who are a Charity made up of disabled golfers, run by Graeme and Sue Robertson, we all have varying degrees of disabilities, and play various levels of golf. We get together on a regular basis, up and down the country and play golf together. We have such a good laugh, it's really sociable, we eat together after, and it's better than being at home being lonely. It's helped me so much, I no longer feel like a person with a disability with no confidence, I feel alive and bursting with excitement and anticipation. If you would like further details, please get in touch with me via SRUK as the more the merrier, and we are always asking for new players to join us.
“I also belong to a book club, knitting and sewing club, a women's only club, I swim, play bridge, go to yoga for the disabled, travel as much as I can, which can prove a real challenge. I have just returned from my nieces wedding in Israel. I even get to some voluntary work!
“So my motto in life is work with what you have, always be positive, continue to do the things you love to do, even if you have to do it with major adaptations, don't let the disease get to you, however hard things get. Just think of all the things you love to do and who the important people are in your life. And you know what, you'll get through it!"
Join Hannah and other SRUK supporters for a fundraising day of golf in June