Jul 27, 2021
Nineteen year old Eilidh Mackay, a member of our Ayr club, has shared her story. We hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired us.
Eilidh said: “To help build my strength and fitness, I decided that the best way to do this would be to join a local gym. After years of gruelling cancer treatment for both acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and thyroid cancer, my physical health has suffered. I have been left wheelchair bound and over the years have been slowly trying to rebuild my strength.
“At home we installed parallel bars, which I used to help with my relearning to walk journey. To start with, I was building my strength when learning to weight bear and stand, and each night I kept a record of how many centimetres I had stepped and walked. Seeing the progress I was making in my diary records made me keep pushing forward and gave me hope that I could walk again.
“Before long, I was learning to turn round and walking with only one hand holding on for balance. One of the most momentous occasions was when I managed to lift both hands and balance unaided myself, even though it was only for a few seconds, it was the best feeling. I kept working on this and it soon became second nature. I wanted to stand when I could and my legs were getting stronger each day.
“A couple of years down the line, I experienced a moment I did not know if I would reach. I walked unaided myself across my living room. I was home alone when I attempted this… probably not the best idea! I will always remember when I phoned my parents and told them. I do not think they knew what emotion to display, excitement or fear?
“From that day on, I realised I could do anything I put my mind to. I managed to give all my family, friends, and hospital staff a standing hug by walking unaided to them. It was such an overwhelming emotion of love and meant so much to us all, as I was not able to do this for roughly five years and I had never really been able to show my love and gratitude to them.
“Whilst in hospital, I had physio sessions each day, however they only lasted roughly 30 minutes. I built up a lot of the strength that I had lost whilst in my coma and helped kickstart my rebuilding my body journey. Once home, I was transferred to our local physio who helped me use more advanced equipment. She helped me weight bear and understood my balance and coordination. I definitely would not have come as far as I have without the intense physiotherapy I received.
“However, once I turned 17 I was technically an adult and began the process of moving to adult services. I took it upon myself and decided to take my physio journey into my own hands and start the process of finding a gym and working out myself.
“I decided to look at a few local gyms. This was an extremely daunting process, as the huge ‘disabled’ label on my back follows me. I did not know if people would accept me into their gym due to their beliefs on my ability, or were accessible for someone like me. I never got any further than Bannantynes health club in Ayr, the first one I visited. Scott Nimmo welcomed me into the gym and introduced me to fitness instructor, Cyvonne Bradley, who
gave me the grand tour and assessed what I was looking to achieve. I was given the opportunity to test the equipment and realised how accessible the gym is.
“I absolutely loved the health club and felt so good whilst there. Scott helped me to join and the rest is history. I am now into my second year of membership and go as often as I can. Since the start of my membership, Cyvonne pointed out all the equipment which she felt could help me and spoke through what weights I should start with for each of them. We keep an online diary of what work outs I do and the current weights I am on.
“Looking back to when I first started, my weight changes and gains have improved dramatically. Along the way I have experimented with new equipment such as the treadmill and ski machine - requiring me to stand and weight bear through my feet. Cyvonne and my mum help me access these machines and provide moral support when I am working out on them.
“Each and every part of Bannantynes is wheelchair accessible and friendly. I can move about anywhere within the health club and can use the machines and accessories. Even if certain equipment is not as easily accessible, if I decided I wanted to work out on it, the staff would do everything in their power to help me access the equipment and use it to the best of my ability.
“All staff and other members are so lovely. Everyone is friendly and do not bother about my disability at all. Even though I was apprehensive about joining a gym due to my disability, at Bannantynes I had nothing to worry about. I was welcomed with open arms and it just feels right. I am just another member and my disability and wheelchair do not get a second glance.
“Everyone within the gym can see the determination and motivation I have. When building my gym plan we decided to focus on my mindset instead of my disability. Cyvonne pushes me to reach all my goals and has never given up, and still makes sure I am doing the best I possibly can.
“The health club has not only helped with my physical fitness, strength, and stamina but also my mental health has improved. I feel extremely motivated whilst at the health club, feeling empowered and in control of my body. My mindset is much improved, with so many incredible endorphins being realised from my brain to my body, pushing me harder when I am there. The once steep hill that I began wheeling up is slowly levelling out and becoming easier and most of all I feel strong!
“I want to share my story regarding disability and gyms, in case there is anyone out there who is apprehensive at the thought of it. Go for it! Your programme will be tailored to your needs and abilities, meaning you feel comfortable with what you are taking part in. If you are not into working out, there are classes which you can attend and they will be made as accessible as possible for you. Always remember that your disability does not define who you are and how far you can go. #abilitynotdisability