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Fiona's
Story

I realised wheelchair basketball presented the perfect solution as to how I was going to be able to play sport now that I was a wheelchair user. I found Hereward Heat, and have been playing ever since.

As a wheelchair basketballer, I was excited to receive the notice that we could now train indoors. There was a great deal of administrative preparation to do, in terms of risk and safety assessments. I’m a Covid Officer at both my clubs, so it’s taken a lot of work to get our training off the ground as soon as possible.

I play for two teams. The more local one is a small mixed team called Hereward Heat, based near Cambridge. We were the very first club nationally to return to play, back in September and October, during that short window when we could play for a while. Heat has a lovely bunch of players, both disabled and able-bodied, and it was wonderful to be able to train together. It wasn’t playing, as such, but the training was very effective, and we just LOVED being together again.

 

All through lockdown we have done virtual fitness and conditioning training, partly to stay fit, and partly just to ‘be’ together.

My other team is the only women’s team in the whole of East Anglia – Eastern Blue Stars – where I’ve been captain since 2018. In 2020 when lockdown hit, we had just gained an unassailable lead in Division Three of the National Women’s League. This promotion represented the culmination of years and years of work and development under our brilliant coach, Emily Scrivener. We are VERY excited, and a little daunted, about playing in Division 2 when competition get underway again. The players are spread very widely and thinly across East Anglia, so getting together for the very short sessions that were allowed in autumn wasn’t possible – only once just before Xmas.

We have ‘stayed together’ throughout lockdown, not only by getting together to do fitness training, but also by boxing together!!

I’ve had kidney cancer for 20 years, with lots of secondary tumors and a lot of treatment, mostly surgery, but also some radiotherapy. I’ve also had a few tumors ‘cooked’ via a technique called RFA, a sort of soldering iron…

In early 2011 I had a hugely complex, risky and life-changing Whipple’s surgery, during which I lost a lot of offal and had my digestive tract massively rebuilt, and after which I had gained diabetes and massively reduced mobility. I was very ill in the immediate aftermath and I almost didn’t make it, but gradually and slowly I recovered over a period of about 18 months.

I went to the 2012 Paralympics, where I saw a women’s wheelchair basketball match, China v USA, and in a lightbulb moment, I realised that wheelchair basketball presented the perfect solution as to how I was going to be able to play sport now that I was a wheelchair user. I came home, found Hereward Heat, and have been playing ever since. I absolutely love it. It makes my smile muscles ache. It is THE silver lining in the whole of my 20-years of living with cancer.

In the absence of my main source of exercise – basketball – I was casting around for something to do during lockdown, and a mate told me she was going to try virtual adaptive (wheelchair) boxing with Luiz Faye at Kronik Warrior.

I’ve never really been a boxing fan, but thought it might at least keep me fit. But I love it, and I’m more than a bit addicted!

I’ve been boxing four or five days a week since April 2020; my arms are a different shape, and I honestly think I’m as fit now, at 60, as I’ve been for about 30 years. Also, it’s welcoming and incredibly adaptive. Lots of previously inactive participants have found a big increase in their fitness, range of motion and function, as well as reduced pain. I would absolutely encourage other disabled women to give it ago.

I’m not giving up the basketball, though!