In 2002, for no apparent reason, I started to develop some niggling back pain. I didn't think much of it. After all, I was young, reasonably fit, about to start a PhD in Science (nerd) and I had my whole life ahead of me. Right?
A student of Science, I was preparing to begin a PhD in 2002 when a niggling back pain issue became much more serious. With pain radiating from the centre of my back, it was difficult to breathe at times. I had managed to get a few days off from my part-time retail job. Then after waking from a nap one day, I couldn't feel my legs and the pain in my back was sickening. Dragging myself across the floor to the phone, I managed to call for help — the rest was a blur. I was told an ambulance, paramedics and firefighters were rushed to my aid. Immobilised on a spinal board, I was rushed to hospital. Before I knew it, scans had revealed a fist-sized tumour wrapped around my spine compressing the spinal cord. Surgery successfully removed the tumour but full sensation had not returned to my legs.
Further scans revealed tumours in my spleen and liver. Things were looking grim — so began the fight for life.
Motivated by exhaustion...
The first session of chemotherapy started almost immediately and while I ploughed through the schedule of appointments and scans, rehabilitation from the surgery continued apace, until I was able to first stand upright and then take a few baby steps then walk around the ward.
The physiotherapists in the hospital were great and able to help me strengthen the muscles around the spine over several months until I could actually walk unaided, stand without a back brace and contemplate returning to work. But I somehow knew that wouldn't be enough. At the end of each day I was exhausted — I simply wanted to be able to return to the level of activity I had before.
A whole new world...
Research in exercise (after all I am a science nerd) led me to swimming. It had the right amount of whole body activity, supported my spine and was a good cardio workout. As fate would have it, after a few months doing laps in 2003 my swimming partner suggested trying 'this Pilates thing'. Having never heard of it, but being game I said I would join her. And a whole new world opened up to me.
I started off trying a few equipment lessons. The apparatus was weird and I struggled with even some of the basic exercises but each session challenged me in ways that swimming never could. Each session presented an exercise that I wanted to 'beat', to conquer, to find out why I couldn't do it and work towards doing it. From once a week, I soon found myself doing equipment lessons twice a week, then three times per week, then adding a mat-work class.
"I was soon a serial Pilates pest...
Then in 2005, one of the instructors that I saw regularly suggested I try to complete the instructor course. After a bit of soul-searching over Christmas with my family, I decided to go for it. A year later after having completed the then Cert IV in Pilates Instruction, I was throw in into the deep-end taking on a full-time job instructing and I've never looked back. Upgrading my qualifications to Diploma and then Advanced Diploma; taking over a whole studio and then moving it to a new location; learning from more experienced instructors and meeting some legends of the industry and — most importantly — helping hundreds of people strengthen and overcome pain or injury...