Stacey Roche has also been a competitive sportsperson all her life. So when her walking started to deteriorate, she decided to do something about it.
A year ago, Stacey Roche wheeled through the doors of a local gym.
“You’ll be walking a kilometre by the end of the year,” said exercise therapist Olly Coffey, from Natural Fit Gym in Mount Maunganui.
Yeah, whatever mate, Stacey thought to herself. Stacey has cerebral palsy. She could walk but relies on a walker and wheelchair. But a year ago she felt she was losing much of her walking ability so made a goal: to gain back some walking ability and walk the length of the gym.
“I’m not just walking the length of the gym, he’s got me walking a kilometre unaided and I will give myself and Olly a high five for that,” she says.
Katikati Advertiser visited Stacey in Mount Maunganui in May. Part of her exercise regime was walking up and down stairs, which was a first for Stacey. She walked unaided for short distances at the gym with Olly beside her. They now walk out on the street.
It was a battle between her mind and her body, Stacey says, when she first began. Her brain was telling her to move her limbs, but her muscles were tensing and there was sensory overload to deal with.
“Walking around the community is another thing entirely. Walking outside with the noise and the traffic ... people are seeing me and I’m self-conscious. But I’m proud of myself for having the ability to do that and it’s pretty awesome to achieve that in a year.”
It takes a huge amount of energy and concentration to walk the distance.
“I don’t want people to think ‘hey, you’re cured’, it doesn’t work like that. I still use my ‘Johnnie Walker’ but I’m so much stronger on it now, my energy levels are better. I have got myself in a positive frame of mind, I believe in myself a lot more.”
Falling has always been one of her greatest concerns.
“It’s a vicious circle. You’re scared of falling and you fall because you’re scared. I can trust myself a whole lot more now. I’m climbing my way back ... there always progress to make.”
Stacey grew up in Katikati, attending primary and college. She was the only disabled child at school at the time, she says. Stacey went on to attend university and worked as an advocate for people with disabilities for the Halberg Foundation for many years.
She once represented New Zealand at the World Boccia Championships and at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics. She has written and published her autobiography, The Ups and Downs of a Dribbly Wobbly.
Stacey often publicly speaks for people with disabilities. She is the guest speaker tonight at an event in Tauranga in recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, along with Teina Boyd and Casey Brady.
What: Inclusivity Matters with Stacey and fellow guest speakers Teina Boyd and Casey Brady
Where: Te Manawaroa Room, Waikato University, Durham St
When: December 8 from 5-6.30pm
Rebecca Mauger is the editor of Katikati Advertiser. She’s been with NZME for close to three decades in a variety of journalist roles including ad writer, community reporter and entertainment/lifestyle magazine writer.