Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Dear Robyn,

(Read in Monty Python voice) And now for something completely different!

Today I want to post a speech made by our friend Lia because she is a truly remarkable person. Not only does she have a knack for setting seemingly impossible goals and then achieving them despite any obstacles in her way (and she says how she does that in her speech) but she is also a very kind hearted person who goes the extra mile to help out other people and is pretty creative about how she goes about it. She is proof that one person can make a huge difference in the world.

This year she has single-handedly instigated “Swim 10,000”, a fundraiser to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation and support the 10,000 people in NZ living with a blood cancer or condition. So for the next year she is swimming 10,000 lengths of the Millenium Institute Pool – and if that’s not challenging enough, she is doing it using only her arms (as she explains below, this is due to her Cerebral Palsy). Quite frankly, just thinking about swimming that makes me tired. But as she puts it:

“The challenge of the 10,000 lengths and year-long commitment pales in comparison to the challenge and struggle that people with cancer face on a daily basis. I am extremely proud in the knowledge that the money I raise will help people like Rangi (who has Leukaemia), as they are an inspiration to me.”

The LBF were so impressed with her Swim 10,000 that they have made it their main campaign for the year! And they are right to be impressed because only a few weeks in she has already completed her first 1,000 lengths and raised a reasonable amount of money for them.

This week she was invited by Long Bay College to be the guest speaker at their awards ceremony for young people who have done inspirational things, give out the awards and tell her own story. The thing is Lia HATES public speaking (something I can totally relate to!) so she read her speech to me over the phone many times as a trial run. No matter how often I hear or read this it inspires me every time so I thought it would be great to share with everyone.

If anyone would like to donate or help out with Swim 10,000 details are at the bottom of Lia’s post.

Morgan 🙂

LIA’s SPEECH:

“What, you’re swimming 10,000 kilometres?”

Okay, so mum got it slightly wrong.

Hi, I’m Lia, and I am doing a fundraiser “Swim 10,000” where I am swimming 10,000 lengths of the pool at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health in Mairangi Bay, over the course of a year to raise money for the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation.

Whilst I admit, 10,000 kilometres does sound amazing, at 27.3 kilometres per day (546 lengths) every day, for a year, it is a tad unrealistic even for an olympic athlete, let alone for a 34 year old mother of one with Cerebral Palsy!

Cerebral Palsy affects people in different ways. In some people it affects their arms and legs, and even their speech. Some can walk, others cannot. I have Cerebral Palsy diplegia, which means both my legs are affected. As a baby I started going to Wilson Home for physiotherapy, and would continue going there for physio for many years. The physio strengthened my muscles and “retrained” my brain to learn how to walk. My mother said she wanted me to be walking by the time I went to school as she didn’t want me to go to a “special” school for the disabled, and wanted mainstream education for me. At 4 years old just before starting school, I took my first, rather wobbly steps.

The typical gait for someone with Cerebral Palsy is knock kneed and walking on their toes. This is how I walked for 4 years. At age 9 my parents had the opportunity through Wilson Home, for me to see an orthopaedic specialist who offered the option of surgery. I remember the doctor asking me if I wanted the surgery, and all I wanted to know was “would it make me walk like my sisters”. He told me “close”, and I was sold.

This would be the beginning of a long road of surgeries and physiotherapy to correct my walk. With each surgery I had to re-learn to walk. Due to my limited mobility, my parents got me into a swimming club as a form of exercise. I remember trying very hard to swim freestyle, moving my arms one after the other and wondering how far I had progressed down the pool, only to find that through all that effort I had moved very little if at all. I have come a long way since I was a kid. Luckily now, I actually move forward! (or backwards in the case of backstroke!)

Whilst I am not a fast swimmer, I can swim a reasonable distance. At about 14 years old I got stress fractures in both my feet. About a dozen fractures in each foot that would require numerous surgeries to fix. My gait puts added pressure on my joints and as a result I have a problem similar to arthritis in my feet which often causes severe pain .

Swimming is good as it doesn’t put any stress on my joints or feet.

I used to swim a lot. But to be honest, before starting Swim 10,000, I hadn’t been swimming for about 5 years. After having my son (who turns three next month) I often thought about getting back into swimming. The problem was there was too much thinking and not enough action. So I decided, right, I’m going to get a membership and go swimming every day I can. I have heard that a lot of people get memberships and for whatever reason lose interest after a while and stop going to the gym or the pool. It was then that I decided to incorporate my year-long swim into a fundraiser.

I calculated the number of lengths I thought I could do over the course of a year and, at 30 lengths (1.5km) a day it came to 10,950. I capped it at 10,000 to allow for days when the pool may be shut and sick days. It was quite coincidental, when deciding to support the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation, that I had read that there are an estimated 10,000 New Zealanders living with a blood cancer or condition. I have always wanted to support the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation. I have seen many people who have joined in the “Shave for a Cure” campaign, and thought I would participate, so when deciding on which charity to support I thought, perfect, I can swim 10,000 for the 10,000 people living with a blood cancer or condition.

I wanted my fundraiser to really help those in immediate need. Like many people, perhaps even some of you, I have known people who have gone their own battle with cancer. Some who have won, some who have not. So, the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation is a charity close to my heart.

Through this fundraiser I want to show that anyone can make a difference regardless of their personal circumstances. Many people who look at me may see me as disabled, a person with special needs, or physically challenged. I have always challenged those labels, as I believe the only real restrictions we face are those we put on ourselves. Sure there are things that I find difficult, and yes, some things that I am unable to do, at least how someone “able-bodied” might do them. But, if I want to do something badly enough, I have found there is usually a way.

When I was a baby my mother was told it was unlikely that I would ever walk, or talk, and would go to a “special” school. Luckily for me, I have a very determined mother who was not going to take “no” for an answer. And again, luckily for me, I have inherited her stubbornness and determination.

It is with this same determination that I began planning Swim 10,000. Upon telling some people of my goal I was told “you won’t do that”, and it made me even more determined to prove them wrong, but the real sense of achievement I will get is in knowing that I have proven it to myself.

I have, however, been told “you can’t do that” many times in my life. Many times been subjected to the stares and pointing from strangers. Growing up with a disability you develop a thick skin to such things. I remember being 4 years old (unable to walk at that stage and being pushed in a chair similar to an oversized pushchair by my mother. A woman approached us, and said rather rudely to my mother “what’s wrong with your daughter she shouldn’t still be in a pushchair, she’s far too old for that”, and my response, “you don’t see me coming up to you asking you what’s wrong with you and why are you wearing those ugly glasses, and kicking her in the shins. Looking back, I’m not proud of kicking her in the shins, nor, I am sure was my mother, however, she and I are both proud that I felt able to defend myself, and not have to be spoken for.

But then, sometimes the reaction was just for fun. At age 9 after having my first surgery, I was in a wheelchair with casts on both legs and bandages on both thighs, on a day out shopping with my mother, who was pushing me in the wheelchair. A couple approached us and asked what had happened to me. My mother always hated this, as she never knew what I was going to say! I then turned to the couple and said “see this woman pushing me in the wheelchair” They nodded “We’ll she’s my mother, and she pushed me down the stairs!”. To which the horrified couple gave mum a quick glance and went about their business as my mother and I continued on our shopping trip, my mum red with embarrassment but the two of us laughing.

Humour, was the way I dealt with the staring, pointing and questions from strangers. I have learnt not to take things too seriously, and that laughter can dispel those awkward moments where you’d otherwise be inclined to run and hide, when you know that running is not an option.

As I have grown I have become more confident and less inclined to take offence at the sometimes blatant prejudice from others. The aim of Swim 10,000 is to help the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation. But Swim 10,000 is also helping me. It is helping me complete one of the biggest goals I have set, but much more than that.

I am a very shy person. My shyness has often stopped me from doing things. I’m the sort of person who feels alone in a crowd. I am more comfortable around people I already know, and familiar surroundings. I want Swim 10,000 to be a success, and raise much needed funds for the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation who receives no government funding. To do this, I realise that I need to get the word out about Swim 10,000 to as many people as possible in the most effective ways.

I have written letters, emails, and made phone calls to companies, sent friend requests to strangers who have heard about my swim and asked for their support in helping to spread the word. I have been interviewed and photographed for an article in the North Shore Times Advertiser, and there may be other media interest by way of radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines. And, here I am speaking to you. Public speaking. The thought of which leaves me with more butterflies in my stomach than you’d see at Butterfly Creek. But I’m here. And I find with each new thing I try, once completed, the fear goes with it.

I have met many people through doing my swim. One friend I have made is Rangi. Rangi heard about Swim 10,000 on the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation’s facebook page. Rangi has Leukaemia.

He told me he is proud of what I am doing, and continues to follow my progress and give me his support. Some people may be inspired by what I am doing, and I’m glad, if that “inspiration” leads them to action. But really, I don’t see what I’m doing as amazing. I am simply a regular person who was inspired by others, and decided to take action. Many people don’t act, as they say to themselves, “what difference can I really make?” Challenge the norm. What difference can you really make? Challenge those who say that one person can’t make a difference. They can. You can. And only you can decide how. The action I chose to take in completing Swim 10,000 is a physical challenge, as I wanted the challenge to be something from which I will gain a real sense of achievement. Without it, what’s the point? I see it as a challenge which I am enjoying. It’s my goal.

You can achieve any goal you set. Just break it down into small steps, and take one step (or in my case, length) at a time. On Tuesday I passed my first thousand lengths, and am now on my way to my second. The challenge of the 10,000 lengths and year-long commitment pales in comparison to the challenge and struggle that people with cancer face on a daily basis. I am extremely proud in the knowledge that the money I raise will help people like Rangi, as they are an inspiration to me.

Please join me in making a splash. To donate to Swim 10,000, and go in the draw to win an aquamarine and diamond ring from Diamond & Time Jewellers valued at $920 go to www.leukaemia.org.nz 10,000 thank yous.

Lia in the North Shore Times
Lia’s journal of her year long swim
To donate

Photo by Ben Watson, North Shore Times

Advertisements