Unless you’ve been out of the country for the last week or so you’re almost certainly aware that triple Olympic rowing champion, Pete Reed, has given a candid and incredibly moving interview to Sir Matthew Pinsent about life since his spinal stroke in September this year. The stroke left him paralysed from the chest down and has presented him with unimaginable challenges. In case you missed it, here is an excellent piece about it from the BBC website:
It’s hard to comprehend how tough it must be for Pete – an athlete to his core – to be suddenly confined to a wheelchair. Whilst in the true spirit of an Olympian Pete is determined to see it as an opportunity, he’s open about the fact that it isn’t going to be easy.
It’s difficult to find a response to something like this that doesn’t sound trite, but what I can say is this. If I learned anything from my experience of having cancer, it was that being a rower can make a daunting experience and an uncertain future infinitely more bearable. I vividly remember how it helped on my darkest days – those days when I was face-down on the sofa, when the meds just weren’t reaching the shooting pains darting around my body and I was starting to wonder how I’d get through the day. But each time I thought I couldn’t take much more, I reminded myself of the grit that had seen me through countless races and erg tests. I called to mind the reserves of strength I had found during races that I’d hadn’t even known were there, and somehow that knowledge carried me through.
I also discovered the phenomenal love and support that the rowing community can provide. From the moment I went public about my cancer diagnosis, I was hit by a tsunami of love. Cards and gifts arrived from people I’d never even met, and the messages of support were overwhelming. On those same dark days, it helped more than I can say to have such an amazing bunch of people all willing me to get through.
If anyone deserves our love and support it’s Pete . Generous to a fault with his advice and time, he’s reached out to even the most humble rower on social media and encouraged us to better ourselves both on and off the water.
So Pete, if you’re reading, I’m adding my voice to the thousands wishing you well. If anyone can get through this challenge, you can.