Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was a harsh blow to Graeme. Here he tells his story about how golf has improved his health and helped give his life purpose again as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
I used to be a keen sportsman and passionate golfer, however at 35 I was diagnosed with primary progressive MS – that’s more of a slow decline rather than the highs and lows commonly associated with MS. It was a harsh blow and for 15 years I ditched competitive sports. My work became an issue as my mobility declined and I felt very low about everything. It was particularly hard in the winter when I found it impossible to even get to the swimming pool independently.
I was provided with a wheelchair, and as a very proud man, that was even harder to deal with. Our local council introduced my wife Sue and I to table tennis (with me in the chair) so we could have some of the fun we were missing out on and it was really the turning point.
After watching a YouTube video I wondered if I could find a way to play golf again, and so four years ago I took part in the first pilot for disabled golf and as they say the rest is history. Along with my wife Sue, I co-founded the Disabled Golf Association (DGA) as a not-for-profit charitable community interest company. We now have over 800 members across the country!
The power of sport
It’s amazing the power of the human mind to overcome adversity. Sport can be vital in therapy and rehabilitation of disabled people, including those with hidden disabilities. Golf compared to other sports, played with a stationary ball, can stimulate neural pathways. There are very few sports available for disabled people played out in the fresh air that can be both frustrating and fun at the same time!
15 years after my diagnosis, I have gone on to be Team England Captain for the last 3 years. Through golf I’ve found a purpose to life again. My golf is not as good as it used to be, but I’m really enjoying the challenge and though I can’t walk across a room, I can play 18 holes (albeit with a little help with a golf buggy and a kindly arm!).
I know from personal experience the difference my participation has made on my health. My wife has noticed that my concentration and balance have improved, but more importantly I’m more content! Being involved has given me the opportunity to meet some very inspiring people and make new friends. Sue’s health suffered over time too, so it’s fantastic to see her learning to play golf too now!
Now I’m working hard to improve my golf swing! I’m not only working out at the gym but going to yoga, back swimming again, hydrotherapy, and I attend a gym for people with long term conditions where I can safely do cardio work on the bikes. As event co-ordinator for the DGA I hope to provide inspiration to others too. I’ve also found suitable employment where I have turned my disability to a real advantage.
DGA provide a supportive, caring and understand environment for making true friendships. Find out more on the Disabled Golf Association website.
Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of the stories so far.