So Sunday I was the first wheelchair user to do a British Pageant as a finalist in Miss Bristol and although I am not writing this to tell you that I was crowned; I certainly think I achieved a lot.
The support I had from friends, family and strangers in the lead up to the event and on the night is what was constantly reminding me of why I was doing it. I was doing it to show people that you can't be defined by your "disabilities" or whatever it is about you that you think means you can't do things like this, because you can ... if you believe in yourself. As cliche as that may sound; its true.
All the other contestants were lovely and made me feel so confident in a place very much outside of my comfort zone. 99% of those sat around the catwalk didn't know I was in a wheelchair and I wasn't too sure how they would take that. But I got a very warm welcome and cheers/claps the whole night which only helped.
So now that I have done this, and it did get such a good response, I need to keep the ball rolling and I have a few ideas as to how. But for now, you and I, need to wait and see! As soon as I have heard back from a few different things I will be sure to let you know.
In the mean time, I am going to make a birthday cake and Easter treats too, but you can see what Glos Live had to say about the whole thing here:
I am 4ft11, size 10 (depending on the shop) and shop in Primark, H&M and New Look usually. Oh and to top it off I am in a wheelchair! Not your usual contestant, you would think. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Which is why …
I am a contestant in Miss Bristol 2017.
Let’s get the sob story out of the way first. In honesty I was never able to accept how I look. I’ve got scars, blemishes, I’m under 5 foot and use a wheelchair. I thought all these things, especially the scars, made me unattractive. Now that I’m older, and dare I say wiser, I have realised that a quote from my favourite film, Beauty and the Beast, is right. "For beauty is found within".
On the outside my scars may be unattractive in my eyes, underneath that they tell a story of what I have been through. They say that I made it through and I am stronger for it (The height restriction and wheelchair come as part of that package). I may be branded “disabled” but I have never been unable to do the things I want to in life. I will find a way to do anything because I believe the only limits are the ones you set yourself, and I won’t do that for myself.
As for the blemishes, they are imperfections, but nobody is perfect. I am normal and natural. Now I’m not saying this next part because I necessarily believe it, but I am always told how “enchanting” my eyes are. So when people look at my face they don’t see the blemishes, the imperfections, they see my eyes (which my Nan says can tell you everything).
My attributes that I have mentioned above are exactly why I have entered as a contestant in Miss Bristol 2017. I don’t know about ALL wheelies, but I know when it comes to my appearance I have always felt like we can’t compete with people like that. Now I haven’t really entered to compete (but I am an athlete underneath all this so may be part of me is feeling competitive). I am doing this to raise awareness. To show people that beauty isn’t always black and white, there is a grey/coloured area too.
Actually the dictionary definition of beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”. If you read that again, and read it closely, you’ll see that it doesn’t really say about how you look necessarily. It’s more than that ...
Hands up, part of me is really nervous about this and is wondering if I have made a bad decision, but the other part of me is feeling almost empowered. If by doing this I open people's eyes to a different type of beauty and encourage other people like me to follow in my umm … what can I say instead of footsteps … but you know what I mean!
So here’s the part I’m shy about … to have a chance at recognition for doing this (and for a chance of winning) I need people to vote for me. But not just for me, but for all the people like me who don’t have the courage to do these sort of things yet, but hopefully by seeing this will!
Please visit the Miss England website via this link: http://www.missengland.info/regionals/bristolavon to find out how you can vote for me.
So when you are diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy you are told that "it is a muscles wasting condition with no cure" and it is a double whammy when you are told you have a form of it called Nemaline Myopathy which only 50 people, out of around 65 Million in the UK, have. Oh and I have Arthrogryposis on top which means I was born with no hips, feet bent up to my shins and I think I have had constructive surgery every year of my life (the longest being 11 hours). So it has been eventful to say the least.
So what happens when you find out that there has been funding put into research to help find a treatment to slow down, and potentially stop, muscular atrophy (weakness) for the 50 people like me in the UK and the others likes us around the world? Well it's a bit confusing to be honest. When since the age of 4 you have been raised knowing that as you got older you would get weaker and then you are told that there is a chance that could be stopped. Wow. It's hard not to feel like their is hope. Now I have excepted my condition 110% but I would be lying if I said I didn't like the idea of being able to stay stable and not slowly loose the ability to do things.
So Great Ormond Street have told me I am unique and they can't work out what is going on with my body. But I wonder if the Professor Coen Ottenheijm and Co. can work it out and use it to their advantage? Well I sent him an email to find out. So let's wait and see what he says ...
But in the mean time, here's all the nitty gritty of it for you to read: http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/grants/putting-the-brakes-on-muscle-atrophy-in-nebulin-based-nemaline-myopathy/
Every year the Charity Muscular Dystrophy UK host an event called the Spirit of Christmas at a number of different Cathedrals around the country in hope to raise money for the charity ahead of the festive period.
I have attended the event at Gloucester Cathedral since it began and the changes seen between now and then are unimaginable!
My favourite memory of this event has to be the year I had surgery on both hips and my right lower leg too. I vowed that I would be up and walking in time for the big day so that I could light the fire candle on my feet. It was very hard work and I wasn't up for long but I did do it!
Each year I light the first candle and on a few occasions I have given a speech. My speech last year went a little like this:
"This event is called the Spirit of Christmas, and being someone who has OCD (in this case Obsessive Christmas Disorder), I associate it with the story of The Christmas Carol. Where Scrooge is visited by 3 spirits. The spirits of past, present and future. I’m sure everyone here knows the story. If not, you're going to hear a slightly different version now; mine.
You know those roller coasters that have the big ups and downs and the loop the loops? Yeah I think that describes my past. I have had some really low lows like numerous operations and stint in intensive care in January 2012 to really high highs like tossing the coin at Wimbledon and Skydiving. Oh and representing Great Britain of course. I believe that everything happens for a reason whether it’s good or bad, it’s a learning curve either way. Excuse the archery pun here but I think this sums up what I am saying well. Life is like an arrow, you have to be pulled back before shooting forward into something amazing. So keep aiming.
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving which people will link to presents. I much prefer giving presents. Using the Christmas spirit to plan and pick gifts carefully, to work out what to paper and ribbons to wrap things in and to see people’s faces when they open them. That’s what I am doing with my present, not the gift kind, but my life right now. I’m taking my time to plan out and make choices carefully. I’m wrapping things up in packages, but not in bubble wrap for sure, and I guess I’m not exactly giving things to my friends and family, but there seems to be smiles on their faces because things are on track. At last.
Which leaves the future, and I can promise you mine has a better future than Scrooge’s did. My last year has been spent recovering from a bug I picked up in Bangkok that hit my tummy hard and breaking my thumb again so having surgery. I have been back into training around 4 weeks now. The next year will be full of excitement. Finishing my college course, and ultimately working toward making the Paralympic Games in Rio September 2016. For any athlete making a games is hard work, but for people like me, with conditions like Muscular Dystrophy, it’s a little bit more of a challenge. It’s a good job I like a challenge!
I guess this is my point here. The past, present and future I have just told you is mine, in a nutshell. Just one person’s story. There are thousands of others out there facing the same thing. Just like Scrooge, he was only one person who got visited by the three spirits that night. Just think how many other people they had to get round. That’s what Muscular Dystrophy UK do. They are the spirits who show people the way when they are lost. Whether it’s struggling to cope with a diagnosis, finding it hard to find the money for equipment or general needing someone to talk to. They do it all. But it is a charity at the end of the day, they can’t do all this without funding.
Just to put this into perspective for you. £16 ensure parents get advice and support after diagnosis via free phone helpline service, £35 support for family for a week, £44 pays for one hour of research, £1897 provides medical beds, £2500 provides trained advocacy ambassador in every region. Some of these figures are high, but penny’s make the pounds as they say so it all adds up. There has already been so much progress made, I want to make sure it continues.
When my day to day life was made easier, it allowed me to make the most of the rest of my life. I wouldn't be the person or athlete I am today without my nearest and dearest, and of course the charity. With a condition like Muscular Dystrophy you never know what’s going to happen next, so making the most of every day and every opportunity is important. So at this time of year, a time for joy and giving, please help me give others with the condition the opportunities that I have had. It is about accepting what is, let go of was and believe in what will be, and with your support it will be a bright future."
And although I may not be speaking this year I enjoy taking in the atmosphere, catching up with old friends and hoping that people help us raise the necessary fund to continue to vital work to change peoples lives with the condition.
So if you are thinking you would enjoy an evening of carols by candles light that can make a big difference? Why not see if there is a Spirit of Christmas event near you: http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/news/news/come-and-join-us-for-a-magical-evening-of-carols-and-festive-readings/
So since just before I was born in 1996 my mum has been unable to have a job. Which a lot of people couldn't understand, and in fairness how could they.
They don't know what it's like to have your child born with bone deformities which changed everything. I can't imagine what it would have been like for my mum being told when I was just a matter of days old that I would never be able to use my legs or walk!
Well I have news for that doctor - he was wrong. But he could have been right if my mum had given up which luckily she didn't and never has. Oh and of course I was also diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 4 just to add to the list.
So between then and now I have had more operations than me and mum could count on our hands and more hospital appointment/stays then you'll probably have in your lifetime.
So yes, technically that is what I have been though. But every time I needed to go to the hospital, whatever it was for, and when I was recovering for months from the long list of operations naturally its been my mum caring for me.
But then she really started going above and beyond. When I started doing sport it was mum who took me to 99% of my training sessions and competitions, on top of the normal taxiing around. I don't just mean like a Sunday morning football matches (well of course it wasn't football I was doing anyway, but you know what I mean). She was driving me every week to training camps, most weekends to competitions and even flew to a number of internationals with me (one as far as half way around the world).
While my mum has been unable to work I have been getting diplomas, medals and world records. Hardly seems fair in my eyes! But I barely hear her complaining about it. The tables have turned now though.
Ever since my not so little brother (teenager - say no more) started at Primary school mum has volunteered down there a number of times a week and all that voluntary work has turned into her first job since I came into the world.
I will always need my mum, as pretty much everyone does, but shes the reasons I have been able to get to where I am today and now it's her time to help another do the same.
2016 threatened to be one of our hardest years to face yet, but every cloud has a silver lining and although mum may not have flown out to Rio with me to see me compete in the Paralympics. I am a BBC Reporter and she is a Teaching Assistant. I think that qualifies at Christmas coming early to the Hopkins Household!
Who knew when I started at the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College that I would leave with so much more than grades. Because of my time there I can say I am employed by the BBC in Bristol and do the announcements at the Bristol City Women's home games which are played at the same college campus funnily enough.
I'm not writing this today to tell you about my time doing those things though. This is about the Vixens, the Bristol City WFC, and what they have achieved from being at that college campus too.
At the end of the last seasons they were relegated to the Women's Super League 2 (WSL2) which naturally is gutting and there is no way of sugar coating that. But when new manager Willie Kirk came in and there were more transfers than I can count on two hands, even during the later end of this season, the team managed to do something super!
They talk about Paralympians being Super humans but the Vixens have been Super Women's this season. Yes they are supported by Bristol Sport but they are technically a semi-professional team with most players still trying to juggle jobs and families alongside the football. Having not much funding and not as much time as some teams do it was always going to be a rocky road. But I like to think its quality over quantity and Willie's Women fit this definition well.
As the season went on they climbed the table to the top and stayed there. Only a season after relegation. Because when they got knocked down instead of feeling defeated they felt challenged and used that to get themselves right back to where they belong, at the top of the game.
The best way to look at it is that by being relegated they had time to take a step back and look at the full jigsaw, having time to change a few pieces to make sure the picture looked complete. This was timed to a tee as last night they were promoted back up to THE Women's Super League. Super Women back in the Super League. It doesn't get much more cliche than that but I just hope that they other teams are ready for the Vixens because this is definitely a group of girls who you can't judge by their cover. What the Lion cannot do the Fox can! Remember this!
It has been a privilege to do the announcements at their games, even on Valentines day, and have a chance to interview and befriend numerous players and staff members and I am really looking forward to coming forward with you all!
In the past week 1 in 6 people will have experienced a mental health "issue". Just as an example look around at the nearest 5 people to you and 1 of those, and then including yourself, would have experienced this. It could be any of you but you wouldn't know who because mental health "problems" are invisible.
I can think of so many quotes I could use because over the years I have sent many motivational quotes to friends who have been battling with a mental "illness". But for now ...
Who here likes Disney? I am hoping everybody reading this is saying yes to that question but even if you aren't bare with me because this will make sense (I hope).
So you might be thinking I am telling you conflicting information by saying a mental "illness" is invisible and then referring a film where the "problem" is very obvious. But my point here is, I guess, never to judge a book by its cover. Things aren't always as they seem. For Belle she accepted Adam for who he was despite what she could see. Whereas with a mental health "illness" you may see someone as being fine because they tell you "I'm okay" and you believe it. But are they really okay? Do they know that sometimes not being okay is okay? Be aware of this and make sure if you think someone isn't okay that you offer them an ear because a problem shared is a problem halved and it will most likely then be the first step to becoming themselves again.
From experience of helping those in that positions I know that if someone is struggling with a mental health "illness" they feel like they are burdening you. The labels given to this top never help. Mental "illness" and calling things a "problem" or an "issue". So if today, Mental Health Awareness Day, teaches you anything let it be the below quote:
'When "I" is replaced with "We"
even Illness becomes Wellness!'
All of what I have told you is based on the role I have had in peoples like as a friend or a mentor helping them face physical or mental challenges. So I may not be an expert but I have learnt more in my 20 years than some people have in a full lifetime. I know I am lucky because of that, which is exactly why I use it to help people in anyway I can. So trust me, if you're reading this and thinking you need a little nudge in the right direction just get in touch. I won't bite ... much! I want to make sure that everyone ends up like Belle and Adam and help make sure that they get as close as they can to their very own fairytale lives, living happily ever after!
Now I know not all disabilities are visible. If you saw me just sat on any old seat you would think "okay she's petite" but you wouldn't really know I was disabled until you got up close and saw the scars or saw me in my wheelchair. But that is a good thing because 9 times of 10 I won't consider myself disabled. In my mind I can do anything and will find a way up, over and around things to give myself all the opportunities you would have.
But now and then I remember that I have actually got a medical condition, otherwise known as a disability that can effect my body.
Happy days!! The surgeon said that I am fair enough along into my rehab post operation to be able to go back to archery. The one thing I have been waiting to hear since the moment I found out I wouldn't be going to the Paralympics this year. This is great right? Well yes it is but I am afraid there is a but on this occasion.
I may have "recovered" enough from a surgical point of view BUT not from a Muscular Dystrophy point of view. The conditions official definition is "a muscle wasting condition with no cure". I have this. Which means no amount of medication and physio will help me regain what I have lost (from a muscle point of view anyway). I am only ever as strong as I am right now. Which is like living with a ticking clock inside you waiting for an alarm to go off telling you it's time wake up and realise that its time to get a little weaker again.
That's physically thought, but let me tell you I don't think anyone would say that is the case for me up top. Although I may have been given the thumbs up to shoot - Positive. My body is ready YET - Negative. I am quite a fan of a good toasted sandwich, especially now that Autumn is setting in. Which is why there need to be a positive to follow all that is being said above.
Which is exactly this. That despite not being London 2012. Despite not making Rio 2016. Despite having surgery practically every year of my life since I was born. Despite all that. I am still human. Not a superhuman as some people label people like myself.
That's how I know that now and then it's okay not to be okay, because all I know is that metaphorically speaking when winter comes it might bring the cold and the ice but it also brings Christmas. Now all I've got to do is do what I do best. Keep strolling on and get ready for Christmas day (in more than one sense). So while I'm busy getting all festive and jolly the world better get ready for my come back. Because I may have been knocked down by by my "disability" and fallen 7 times, but I will get back 8!
8 months ago I was being told that I was a medal chance for the Paralympics in Rio which starts tomorrow. But as I'm sure you can work out by the word WAS. That isn't what I will be doing now. That door slammed in my face; but the BBC gave me a key to a very different door.
Let me give you a visual. So right now I'm sat at my No.17 desk at BBC Bristol. To my right, the journalist from Points West. To my left is the Radio Studios. But immediately all around my desk are the Sports Reporters who have spent the last 8 weeks helping me become a better journalism. I've been a BBC Kick Off Sports Reporter.
I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of people to spend my summer with and to learn from. Oh and leant I have! Studying sports journalism for two years and presenting a sports show for a year certainly helps, but being in such a prestigious working environment like the BBC has helped me come on leaps and bounds as a journalist; and as a person.
I have had a chance to help do research, preparing thing for the local Paralympic radio coverage, editing clips and writing ques for bulletins bit I have also been able to get out and about talking to local athletes and sports teams.
I have attended my first Cricket game and interviewed some of the biggest names in Women's Cricket Internationally. I've interviews the Bristol City Women's Football Club. I put together a radio package about a local Paralympian Jo Frith ahead of flying to Rio. For me though my ultimate one was Eddie the Eagle. Cuppa with Chloe right there. We sat in Gregg's for 2 hour drinking tea/coffee and eating pastries. He is even going to do some Archery and Skiing wit me. How crazy is that! All of these experience have not only created radio packages for me but also lasting connections, and I would even say friendships, with these amazing athletes.
But now that this placement is coming to an end I'm wondering if this door is going to close or whether it will open even more? Right now your guess is as good as mine. But fingers crossed I will find out my options soon.
All I know right now is that I have had the best summer at BBC Bristol which I don't want to come to an end. I guess this is the definition of as one door closes, another one always opens ...
Well there are many quotes people use when things don't go your way to make you feel better. Primarily "everything happens for a reason". Which, I think, is true. But at that moment in time when your dreams get pulled out from underneath you all you want to know is why?
Which is exactly how I have felt many times. This time it's different though. Missing out on London 2012 because of having glandular fever and a visit to Intensive Care was hard enough and I vowed I wouldn't let anything stop me making the next games once I knew I had a chance of that in archery.
But what a roller coaster that has been to say the least. One with loop the loops and cork screws, big drops and sudden halts. Making the GB squad December 2013 was the perfect christmas present and I spend 2014 representing Great Britain in a number of international tournaments. Even winning a European Championships Bronze and breaking World Records.
But over the course of that summer I got ill, from a parasite I got in Bangkok in the March which hit my digestive system hard and the doctors even threatened feeding tubes at one point, which I refused, but that lead to a long road to recovery. I still can't eat a number of foods now. But I can eat!
Within days of recovering from that I re-broke my thumb ruling out the 2015 season. Many people saying everything happens for a reason of course and I used that to motivate me. A year where I had to rest and crack on with my college work. Before facing the season heading into the Olympics and Paralympics ready to earn my own place in the team this time round. But ... don't be silly Chloe, that isn't happening. A new injury threatened to rule me out of this years games, and that wasn't just a threat. The surgery I had 8 weeks ago secured my ticket out of the games, not on the flight to Rio.
Everyone again throwing the everything happens for a reason quote at me. Telling me how I don't want to go to Rio cause of the Zika virus. Which is true in a way, and I have an opportunity with the BBC which I wouldn't have got if I made the games. So there is the silver lining here for sure.
But everyone seems to forget that not only have I been working the last 4 years to get back into sport and make the Rio Games. I did the same thing before the London Games. 8 years out of a 20 years olds life spent trying to make the biggest sporting event ever. To not make it twice. But thats not just 8 years of my life. Thats 8 years of my family and friends lives too. All of which are backing me 110% to make it third time lucky to secure my place in the 2020 Games in Toyko.
Here is where I am going to be brutally honest though. It sucks, and it hurts. I am proud of every single person who made the ParalympicsGB Team. But every post and picture I see on social media is like salt in a wound. I'm the sort of person to be able to tell you I'm fine about all this, when underneath I want nothing more than to be doing exactly what every other team member are doing.
The kit measurements Paralympics GB asked for. The money saved for my family to join me. The medal the coach told me I would win there. All gone in the blink of an eye. Because that is how short life is, and why everyone should make the most of every second of the day and every opportunity presented to them.
I have spent the last 8 years dedicated to sport, but because I live with Muscular Dystrophy (a muscle wasting condition with no cure) I know what its like for things to change over night. To stay in ICU, to lose a 3rd of your muscle strength in 2 weeks etc etc. Living with a condition that makes me weak has only made me stronger.
So where am I at right now? Well I still ache inside about not making the Paralympic and I am petrified that I may not ever be able to shoot again and yes that is something that I would find hard. But it won't be the end. Because I also have 7 GCSE's A*-B, 6 A Levels of A* Equivalents and work placement at BBC Radio Bristol. For someone who has lost something that meant everything to them, I still have so much, and if I can do that, tell me this. Why can't you? Because there is no such thing as I can't, only I'll try!
I like to say there are no limits to what you can achieve unless you limit yourself. So no matter how many bumps in the road you face, the hardest roads are always the ones worth taking and if any point you don't think you are going in the right direction there are always turnings and roundabouts along the way.
Don't be afraid of change and challenges. It will all make you stronger and one day when someone says everything happens for a reason. You will look back and see exactly what they mean. The past is the past yes but sometimes you need to look back to see just how far you have come!