IT was great to see Ostend in Belgium put para cycling back on the race calendar last week. 

More than 100 Para athletes were on the start line for the UCI World Cup. I can’t tell you how much I would have loved to have been on that start line.

But just seeing the posts online gave me motivation to get my next scan out of the way and onto my bike.

Even though I am not in bike shape, I did jump into the pool last week for the first time in a few months. With no real plan, I swam the ironman distance of 3800 meters in under the cut off time and swam a PB. 

This was a great boost in confidence that everything I have been doing in Jamacia has put me in a good level of fitness. With British Airways putting direct flights back on to London, I managed to get my visa extension for one more week to avoid flying through America. 

Traveling with a spinal cord injury is not the easiest and the idea of trying to navigate Miami airport was not filling me with joy. So, I squeezed in another week in Jamaica - enough time to get time on the surfboard and some more swimming. 

As Belgium looks like the only Para racing apart from the games this summer, I have loads of time to get plenty of miles on the bike and hopefully in the Alps. 

Since my last surgery in 2018 my plan to return to racing just hasn’t gone to plan. While I feel frustrated that I haven’t had a clear path, life often sends a reminder of how it can change for any of us in the blink of an eye. 

British mountain biker Cassey Newton was out on a bike ride with friends a few weeks ago when she came off her bike.

This was a talented athlete who wasn’t just a great mountain bike rider. She was just as at home in the water kite surfing. The 30-year-old, who is a great role model on how sport can shape people’s lives, is now lying in Salisbury Spinal Rehab Hospital for the next stages of her rehabilitation journey.

She underwent a six-hour surgery in Plymouth before been moved to the specialist spinal hospital and the last few weeks have provided extremely challenging for the athlete. With no feeling from the waist down she has required 24-hour attention. The next 6 months will provide a roller-coaster of emotions as she works on her rehab daily. 

As I read through her story it reminded me of my time in the spinal hospital and how hard those days were. I sit reading about the athletes preparing to race in Belgium on one page and about Cassey on the other page. 

Two completely different worlds yet very similar as all of the athletes on the start line in Belgium have also come through life changing events. Maybe Cassey will find her way back onto a bike via paracycling but for now I can relate to the fear of lying in a spinal ward uncertain of your future. 

Cassey’s story is a reminder to us how quickly life can change and how none of us are trained in how to deal with life changing events as big as this. With a spinal cord injury, we have to relearn everything in life before sport becomes an option again. 

However, from Cassey’s Instagram (Cassey Gemma) it is easy to see she is using her life in sport as the perfect psychological framework in her approach to rehabilitation. This doesn’t mean it’s all positive though.

Life in a spinal hospital can be extremely hard. I remember my only goal was to get back to the person I was pre-injury, and once you start to see that this is very unlikely, it hits you very hard. You look at past photos of your body doing all these amazing things and now you can’t even sit up without assistance. 

What I learned here was it is okay not to be positive every day, that negative emotions are natural and part of the course of life without a spinal injury and even more so with the injury. I used to try and be positive every day for the people around me and actually blocked all my negative emotions. This was something I did even more as people would keep telling me too just be positive. 

Negative emotions are part of the healing and natural for humans. As I looked at Cassey’s last post on Instagram she speaks about this and how one day she was hitting goals to the next lying flat in pain feeling extremely low.

I know the journey ahead and I wish could say it was easy, but the reality is the first-year post injury is very challenging. But when you look at what the athletes in Belgium are doing now compared to where they were it gives everyone one hope.

I hope that Cassey one day finds the beauty and freedom that riding or surfing can give you - even if paralysed.