Building confidence to push boundaries

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Building confidence to push boundaries

I used to be a sporty person prior to my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, says Maria de Courcy-Wadwell, a member of the Chilterns Neuro Centre. I would go swimming two or three times a week before work, attend a fitness class and use the gym.

I have been attending the Centre for about 18 years now. I think it was a friend who told me about it. I was nervous at first because I thought I would be scared by what I saw there.

That turned out to be so wrong. There was nothing to be scared of. People were, and still are, so cheerful, friendly and positive, despite their disability. They share advice and talk freely. It’s a safe place to talk because people understand. You actually pick up some really useful tips talking to other people in the same boat as you.

One of the best things about the Centre is the absolute joy of being in the pool for hydrotherapy. * I have been happy in the water pretty much all my life.

When I was a small child and my dad threw me in the river, I doggy paddled to a rock nearby for sanctuary and then had to do the same but slightly further to get back to shore.

That’s how I started to learn how to swim, obviously supervised by my dad. I never looked back and before long was diving off very high diving boards that would make most adults feel sick!

There have been a few recent periods when I have not been able to enjoy the pool. One was when my MS first started to deteriorate and the other was during Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.

To get back into the pool at the Centre after these points in my life was revitalising and felt fabulous. It’s always a little anxious to get into the pool and know your limits after times like this but it felt safe in the hydrotherapy pool.

Hydrotherapy gives me the confidence to push my boundaries, knowing that if I fall I only have a splash to worry about. With this in mind, I happily push myself and therefore I see results much faster. The pool exercise is building my muscles back up in a fun but challenging environment and gradually I am regaining the strength I lost during the lockdown.

I love being back in the water again.

Due to work commitments and fatigue I find it challenging to fit in a fitness regime so it’s so important that I choose my activities wisely but hydrotherapy once a week really helps me to keep up my strength. It is perfect for me as it’s a really good all round fitness regime that keeps me on the right track.

I tie this in with other fitness classes at the Centre to maintain my overall physical fitness. I really feel so much better for this and think it also has a positive effect on my mental health too. I will always have ups and downs but knowing that I have solutions is so reassuring.

To top all that off, the staff and volunteers at the Centre are absolutely flippin’ amazing!

I want to be surrounded by good friends and people who I care about and who care about me. I’m not as spontaneous as I used to be and I don’t get out doing the things I love as much as I used to – shopping, climbing hills and looking for waterfalls – but I want to remain as independent as I can. I want to enjoy as much as I possibly can and remain as healthy as I possibly can. The Centre helps me achieve this.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the Chilterns Neuro Centre. Whenever I have a problem related to my MS, or an ache, a weakness, a worry, or I need help filling in a form, they have been there for me.

How could I forget to mention the social activities, arts and crafts, the café with all the lovely food and drinks with cakes to die for, and the camaraderie in raising funds for this wonderful charity.

They have even given my husband/carer some physiotherapy in the past as well so we both benefit.

To anyone who has been diagnosed with MS I would say don’t hesitate to join the Centre. It has so much to offer you. It’s full of people with great knowledge, fabulous skills and a welcoming smile. It not only has lots of specialist equipment tailored to your needs but more importantly it is a safe place full of a network of people from all walks of life who share what you are going through and understand. You couldn’t wish for a better support centre.

If you have MS, Parkinson’s or experienced a stroke and feel you would benefit from the services offered by the Centre, or you know someone who would then please get in touch by phoning 01296 696133 or by emailing info@chilternsneurocentre.org

* Hydrotherapy is aquatic physiotherapy that takes place in warm water. This provides unique support and resistance, allowing physiotherapists to target specific areas of the body effectively.  Water supports your body weight and helps to stabilise someone with balance problems, which can be very beneficial when treating neurological conditions.

Earlier this year, Swim England launched ‘Swimming as Medicine’, a series of videos to encourage healthcare professionals to consider recommending swimming to their patients. In the latest video, they collaborated with the Chartered Institute of Physiotherapy in a video that featured several swimmers with MS.

According to Sara Hazzard, Associate Director Strategic Communications at the CSP, “swimming and aquatic activity allows people to develop skills to self-manage their condition, maintain a good quality of life and reduce dependence on long-term medication.”