Reality hit hard this week. Although I am not defined by my tumour or my spinal-cord injury, there was a reminder that they are both a large part of my life. Thus, maybe they do form part of my identity.

My focus in Jamaica was all on the athlete part of me, but suddenly the tumour and spinal-cord injury are very much back at the forefront of my mind back in the UK.

The temperature change hit my bones hard – but not as hard as my second hospital appointment this week.

My paralysed arm.

For those who follow my journey, they will know the struggles this arm has caused both physically and mentally. The constant thoughts of amputation and what life might feel like to be free of this dead limb.

I know the term “dead limb” might not sit well with some, but it’s how I feel about it now.

All I can think of sometimes is the constant pain and stress it causes me.

It was seven years ago this week I woke up paralysed after issues in surgery – and sitting having my arm tested again is certainly a traumatic experience.

Maybe I am hoping for someone

to tell me of a cure, but this seams more unlikely each time I sit in a doctor’s clinic.

Today’s appointment unravels

as expected. “David, your arm will never move.”

Even though I have heard it many times, it seems to hit harder each time I hear it.

Maybe Jamaica and all the gym work had given me some false hope.

If I had false hope about my arm moving, the next hospital appointment this week was oncology, and it was the best news I could hope for.

“David, we are very happy with

all we can see, and it shows that

radiotherapy is working, you are still clear of any tumour.”

To hear those words is like nothing I can express, as I leave the cancer centre at UCLH I have an overwhelming wash of emotions.

There is the cold air going through my body and the stress of London traffic and rushing humans, and I find myself just standing still in the middle of the pavement.

“Radiotherapy worked,” I muttered to myself.

If only I would have been given radiotherapy at the start, I would not be paralysed and the only appointments I would be facing are oncology.

I feel emotions of joy knowing I am still tumour free, as my mind races ahead to what plans I can now make for the rest of 2023 with only one scan to have in the summer.

Then the emotions of frustration and anger arrive towards my body.

The voice of the doctor earlier in the week confirming my arm won’t move and that any medical intervention now is more likely to cause potential problems.

I know you are thinking, “David, you just got the all-clear, you should be over the moon”.

And I am; however, there is something else going around in my mind which is causing discomfort.

Earlier in the week, someone very close to me referred to me as a

“cripple” and that I am better off in a nursing home.


I have never thought of myself as disabled, I have always seen myself as a strong athlete, but now my sense of self had taken a massive hit.

To call someone who is disabled a “cripple”, I can tell you, is heart-breaking.

I was terrified to leave my home and meet new people in case they judged me after my spinal injury.

I felt isolated and alone, but I worked up the strength to overcome that fear and put myself in positions where I was vulnerable to this kind of abuse – and until now it had not hurt me like this.

When I the saw word “cripple”, I felt sick to the core.

Why would a friend be so nasty?

How is it possible that someone close could be so horrible?

It has taken me all week, and

multiple hospital appointments, to sit with this word and the feelings it has caused.

If I am honest I still don’t know how to feel.

I am embarrassed when people stare at me or assume certain things based on my appearance, but I have always got past that.

I know this will be the same and that I will not let anyone define me.

I am David Smith, and I am an athlete, not a cripple.