In September, 2017 I received an inquiry about my services from Simon. On the surface, it was a straight-forward inquiry; Simon had seen my facebook page and was interested in trying soft tissue therapy, however, I was soon to discover that this inquiry was anything but straight-forward.
6 years before, Simon had led a busy, active life and worked as cabin crew with British Airways. After returning home from a long shift he collapsed on his living room floor – he was taken to hospital, where he stayed for the next 51 weeks.
Simon had developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – an uncommon cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. The cancer had developed quickly and Simon endured months of treatment in order to fight the cancer.
The treatment worked but the illness had left him in a wheelchair and he was told he would never walk again.
Instead of being defeated by this news, Simon was determined to take control of his future and so began his rehabilitation at the Oxford Centre for Enablement. After months of endless hard work, Simon had re-gained the ability to walk with crutches and it was around this time that he contacted me.
An initial consultation will usually last anywhere from 5-20 minutes, Simon’s took 3 hours! Initially, Simon’s request raised many red flags and contra-indications to treatment but after a thorough consultation I was able to determine what kind of treatment would be safe and appropriate and we went ahead with a soft tissue therapy treatment. This involved neuromuscular stretching techniques, soft tissue release and sports massage techniques. This provided Simon with some much needed pain relief, increased blood flow and improved range of motion in his legs.
I soon learned that, due to the nerve damage that had occurred because of the illness, Simon had altered sensation and a lack of strength in his legs, especially his right leg. This often led to unbearable feelings of either hot or cold and a feeling similar to elastic bands getting tighter and tighter on his thighs. We were able to find ways to help these symptoms with soft tissue therapy techniques.
But this isn’t the end of the story…!
It is at this point that I began to realise Simon’s motivation to take control of his future and to improve his quality of life. We planned to work together weekly over the following months, this would allow us to put together a more comprehensive rehabilitation plan focusing on long term rehabilitation instead of just short-term pain relief.
So, in the first week of January 2018 we began our weekly sessions.
First, we focused on the importance of nutrition – if I was going to put Simon through his paces he would need the nutritional foundation to recover from our more physical sessions. For this we took the most practical route possible and went on a shopping trip to the supermarket. We took our time walking round the shop where I explained the differences between macro & micronutrients, why we need them, and which foods contained what. This was an eye-opener for Simon and an experience he actually found very interesting. Following this we did multiple batch-cooks and filled the freezer in preparation for the weeks to come. I encouraged Simon to get rid of some of the less nutritious things in his kitchen but gave him tasty alternatives to unhealthy snacks. Simon’s response to this was nothing but positive, he was keen to soak up all the knowledge I had to give and began making changes immediately.
Next, we found out what Simon could do, I mean REALLY do. We started slowly and very cautiously but over time I was able to push Simon and, as his body began to adapt to the workload placed on it, he became more capable than both of us had thought possible at this early stage. We established a baseline for certain movements and set a plan in motion to progress and improve on these.
Most of our sessions would include soft tissue treatments with the goal of increasing the blood supply to his muscles, improving range of motion in his legs and providing some relief from the constant ache caused by the nerve damage. The regular treatment had proven essential in Simon’s progress and recovery and when we weren’t able to do them progress noticeably decreased.
A few months into our sessions Simon was making some fantastic improvements, he had mentioned that he dreamed of taking a walk in Bury Knowle Park in Headington, Oxford. Always keen to push himself to his limits we did just that. At first he was understandably apprehensive but we decided it was safe to do so and set off to the park. Simon soon found his feet and was able to walk with his crutch but relying on the crutch made for a posture not conducive to efficient movement so we worked on a way for him to try walking without one. Letting go of the crutch for the first time was as much a mental obstacle as it was a physical one but we saw very quickly that, although not yet fluent, his posture improved when walking without the crutch. I believe this was the pivotal moment in Simon’s rehab and from there progress seemed to snowball.
As Spring turned to Summer we were both keen not only to make the most of the lovely weather but also to continue to push Simon to new levels of fitness and mobility. As Simon was continuing to progress steadily, week by week, I suggested something that a few weeks before we could have only dreamed of – we went to Wittenham Clumps. If you don’t know what the clumps are, they’re two big hills in Little Wittenham, Oxford with a steep incline to get to the top. I challenged Simon to get to the top without his crutch, competitive as ever, he went one better - after we got to the top we went back down the other side, up the other steep incline, round the clump and back down to the car park, without using his crutch once. I think I was as surprised as Simon was!
From this point, the sky has been the limit and we have continued to push Simon’s boundaries weekly, this included many similar trips to progressively more challenging locations and terrains.
I remember Simon telling me around this time about a solo trip he had taken to London on the train. When he arrived in London he exited the train and walked 100 yards along the platform before he realised he’d left his crutch on the train! Luckily he was able to get back and collect it but this was another huge indicator of progress.
It hasn’t all been roses though, Simon has had huge set-backs to his recovery caused by some fairly serious falls when unaccompanied, and sickness, due to the effect the aggressive treatment has had on his immune system these illnesses tend to hit him harder than it would for most of us. But every time he has come back fighting with a resilient and determined spirit.
On the 1st October 2018 Simon was asked to speak to first year medical, physiotherapy and sports science students at Oxford Brookes University about his story and continued rehabilitation. Through this Simon was offered a gym membership at Oxford Brookes gym, meaning he can continue to build on the work we've done together.
Our time together so far has just been a small chapter in Simon’s recovery and I want to commend Simon on his drive to keep progressing despite the various set-backs he has faced. In many ways I have learned as much from Simon as he has learned from me.
Here's What Simon had to say:
"The effects of the soft tissue therapy on my legs has provided astounding results. Aside from improving circulation in my legs and feet, the techniques used by Liam over a period of time have increased the strength in my legs along with increased range of motion and overall reduction in the high levels of pain which I have regularly endured following my health battle."
You can watch the video below to get a better idea of some of the struggles Simon faced along the way.