A woman with a rare disease which means she can’t control how she moves has beaten the odds by learning how to swim again.
Sue Jones, 40, from Brownley Green in Wythenshawe, feared that she would be facing a bleak future when she was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease six years ago.
CMT is a progressive condition which affects the nerves that control muscles and relay sensory information. In simple terms, the brain can send a message but the body will not always respond, leading to muscle weakness and numbness. The disease is unpredictable and Sue says some days are better than others.
But, the one thing that Sue is certain about, is that a positive outlook is the key to her fighting her condition. This is why she decided to get involved in the specialist swimming sessions that are part of the forthcoming Wythenshawe Games – which is the town’s nine-day sporting extravaganza, inspired by the Olympics.
Sue says: "You have to make the best of things and in my situation it was a case of ‘use it or lose it’. The condition will only get worse if you let your muscles waste – that’s why swimming was such a good idea."
However, Sue decided to take the plunge and knew that she would have to learn how to swim all over again as her condition also affects her memory. And, even more daunting, she would face the risk of not knowing if her arms and legs were moving properly.
"I was really worried about it," she says. "But I had a specialist coach, through the Wythenshawe Games, who I knew I could trust and he could tell me when my legs were tiring and advise me on techniques to help."
Soon, the weekly sessions became less of an exercise in stamina and more of a hobby that Sue looks forward to each week. And, the effect on her physical health and morale are both impressive and poignant.
"I get in the water I feel like I’m flying. It’s such a release to find that symmetry of movement again. The buzz afterwards is just incredible.
"I can’t say how grateful I am and how much I’ve appreciated all the help I’ve received.
"I have a much better outlook on life now. I’ve got to know new people, I’ve got a hobby I love and I’ve just reached the bronze level of my personal best scheme for the Wythenshawe Games."
And, these achievements are doubly enjoyable for Sue – for, her younger brother David, who also has the hereditary condition – is also training alongside her In the pool.
"I’d like other people to look at us and know that anything is possible," she says. "That’s what me and David will be aiming for in July when we compete in the Wythenshawe Games. There’s no barriers to sport – anyone can join in."
For more information about Wythenshawe Games, log on to www.wythenshawegames.org.uk
For more information about Manchester City Council visit www.manchester.gov.uk