This sporting life

The first half was a mix of fortunes, the half time talk was inspirational, while the second half has been a stop-start affair due to declining fitness levels but as I approach my 40th year milestone, it looks like my sporting life could well be taking me into extra time…

Without a shadow of a doubt, a large part of my longevity in my battle to defy Cystic Fibrosis (CF)* can be credited to the amount of sport I have played throughout my life – mainly hockey, basketball, tennis, rugby, football and cricket. I find it far easier to get my exercise while running around after a ball!

Exercise is not actually straight forward for most CF sufferers as the build up of mucous in the lungs means that less oxygen is available which causes problems for breathing and general fitness. It is also an extremely exhausting condition – just think how tired you get after five minutes of coughing!

However, regular exercise has become a necessity to keep my lungs ‘tuned’ and it impacts me both physically and mentally. Although I appreciate that not everyone is sporty, I always encourage anyone, but particularly CF sufferers, to find a form of exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, ball games, dancing, weight-lifting) that suits them.

I coulda been a contender

It’s fortunate that I come from a family of field hockey players – my Dad and both my brothers (Chris and Jez) all play and my Mum is a useful tennis player.

I have played hockey to County, Divisional and England Juniors and have been playing club hockey for nearly 30 consecutive years. I was playing 1st team hockey till I was 32 and I now play a reasonably competitive level for London Edwardians 3rd team, though this is ad hoc depending on my health and parental duties.

Representing England Juniors, like my brother Chris before me, was the pinnacle of my sporting life. The immense pride I felt during those national anthems is something that can never be taken away from me.

Unfortunately, the unavoidable demise of my lung function and a hectic University life took its toll and at just 20 I had to come to terms with the harsh realisation that I would never be able to fulfil my obvious hockey talent.

Rising from the ashes

How was I going to deal with my shattered dreams? If I was unable to be the player I ought to be, should I just give up? It took many years to get my head around how to make sport work best for me.

I was given a real health boost in 1994 by a drug called Pulmozyme, which I nebulise daily. This really has been a miracle medication for me – before it I was only working part-time and was struggling to play better than lower league club hockey. After it, I had the health and vitality to work full-time and play 1st team hockey.

For most of my 20’s and early 30’s, I played hockey both Saturday and Sunday and would go on summer tours around the UK and Europe – this made me feel ‘normal’ as I was competing and socialising with relatively healthy and fit people. It was through this hockey social scene that I met my now wife Katie; so partying hard does pay!

Over the years I have matured in my approach to exercise and finessed my appreciation of how my body and lungs feel and the appropriate times to exercise. To supplement my hockey, I joined a local tennis club; had some coaching and play quite regularly.

A matter of life and death

For me, still playing sport, running and competing is the best barometer for how my health is. It also serves as an indication for others, not least my Dad, to know that if I’m still able to play, CF can’t be winning the battle. Indeed, when most old friends see me, it’s one of their leading questions: “Are you still playing hockey?”

At times, I feel the weight of their hope and expectations on my shoulders. What would they think should I ever reply: “Actually, I’ve had to pack it in as it became too much for me!”

I play on for my own health but also for the positive lift it gives to others. I now feel a tremendous sense of elation on completing any sport as it feels like ‘my Everest’ moment. It’s hard and I do have to get pretty psyched up these days before most exercise. When jogging, I dig my nails into the palm of my hand to keep going and often listen to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ by Tom Petty on my iPod – “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

My lungs do definitely benefit from exercise, even small jogs and I feel more vibrant and alive afterwards. I wouldn’t say the exercise is always enjoyable, but the rewards and positive sensation drive me on.

My motivation is both physical and mental: What’s more of a benefit to me – running (and a short-term discomfort) or not running (and let the effects of CF build up). Exercise is my two fingers salute to CF, stating: “I won’t be beaten. I can do this. I will do this. Just watch me… JUST DO IT!!”

It’s especially tough in this country with the inclement weather. I often jog early in the evening or in a secluded park so when I need to cough, I can be more discreet.

Being there

They say you are a long time retired from sport. To still be playing competitive hockey when I reach 40 feels gargantuan. Winning used to be everything, it’s now a nice to have – just being there on the pitch or court feels amazing and is worth celebrating! This has been magnified with my recent diagnosis as a Type 1 diabetic. Now just getting on the pitch, let alone actually playing, takes a lot of effort.

When I’m struggling on the pitch, the chaps (who know about my CF) ask me if I’m OK, but the opposition jokingly check if I had a night on the town or bad cold. Very recently, after a negative comment about my coughing from an umpire, I spoke with my Dad about retiring from hockey as I was so upset.

That very night, when reading some scriptures, I came across 1 Kings 18:43 – ‘Get up and go again’.

Those words gave me the strength to carry on… get past the 40 landmark and like father like son, look ahead to coaching my son Felix how to play.

I used to live to play sport… now I play sport to live!

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If you want to raise funds for CF through exercise like marathons and 10K’s, go to the Fundraising section of the CF Trust website below for more information.

Look out for my next post as I countdown to my 40 year milestone…

Regards

Tim

* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 8,500 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations.

For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website

http://www.cftrust.org.uk/

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About Tim Wotton

I live with my lovely wife (Katie) and spirited nine-year old son (Felix) in Morden, Surrey; working full-time as an internal communications specialist in the Oil & Gas sector. I have played sport, particularly hockey, tennis all my life and now regularly go to the gym. Cystic fibrosis has been a huge factor in my life, but not one that overshadows it. I have always had great support from my loving family - parents Margaret and Douglas (RIP), elder brother Chris and my twin brother Jez. I have many rich life insights based on knowing I have a reduced life expectancy and battling against the odds for over 44 years. My eyes and heart have been opened by my health struggle. I feel empowered to share my life lessons to help anyone with health and life issues to overcome. My passions include Paul Smith clothes, dress shirts (believing that it's enlightening to dress like it's your last day on earth), Alfa Romeo cars, spicey food, Harlequins and England rugby, Southampton FC, Wimbledon village and common, Dorset, seascapes, sunsets and military history. I am available for public speaking on this subject matter and can be contacted via timwottonAThotmailDOTcom. I have written a book 'How have I cheated death?' based on my euphoric countdown year to 40 which was published in 2014 and won the 2015 'Best Achievement' Award at the UK People's Book Prize. It is available via e-book, audiobook and paperback at Amazon and to order from UK bookstores. Go to the relevant sites below or in the UK go to a WH SMITH, Waterstones or Foyles bookstore and give them my name, book title and this ISBN number (9781849637190). It’s also available via GARDNER’S, BERTRAM’S, AUSTINMACAULEY.COM, BLACKWELL’S, PLAY.COM, AMAZON.CO.UK AND AMAZON.COM
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10 Responses to This sporting life

  1. Stewart Jones says:

    As ever inspiring advice and guidance to many! Am so glad to see such an important inclusion: Faith in God and guidance/inspiration from Scripture. A much maligned and forgotten concept in the busy world of the UK! God Bless you and keep you going way past 40! Luv Crewit!

  2. Jamie Dodgson says:

    Brilliant inspirational stuff Timmy – roll on to your 4oth fella!!

  3. Sharyn Boswell says:

    Hey Tim!

    Another awesome post. I am truly inspired by you…

  4. Shawn says:

    My son is one year old and has CF it is so encouraging to read your posts

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Hi Shawn,

      I continue to hope that my words and experiences can offer hope where it is lacking and lift up your hearts that with the right attitude this condition can be managed and lead to a pretty normal life.

      All the best
      Tim

  5. Chris Wotton says:

    Tim’s big brother back again!
    It’s nice to be able to give another side to Tim’s posts.
    Yes I played at a high standard in hockey but I did it on two healthy lungs!
    Tim had to do it all on barely one. And that’s the measure of him. It’s been mostly about grim determination to guts it out – whatever he’s faced in life and on the grass/astro.
    On the hockey field, playing in his favourite position of right half, it’s been all about not letting the left winger get the better of him. 98% of the time they never did! Not sure about the mixed hockey as Tim might of had a different agenda if the opposition winger was female!
    I remember watching Tim play against the future England winger of the time back when he was in his early 20s. Dom was quick and skillful – a combination you don’t really want to be faced with when healthy but when hungover (as Tim was that day) it makes it even harder!
    Dom gave Tim the round around for the first 35 mins and was pretty gobby about how good he was playing. But as Tim ran off his hangover (mostly through sweat) things evened up and in the second half Dom didn’t get much change as Tim gusted out a performance full of pride and determination. Dom had to conclude that Tim definately won the second half battle without realising about Tim’s CF and hangover.
    I think that second half performance just about sums up Tim’s attitude to his CF as well as the continued battle for parity with everyone else. He never wanted to be known as the kid with a problem.
    Chris

  6. Stephanie Cooper says:

    Hi Tim, another excellent inspiring blog. Can’t wait to see you and Felix together on the hockey pitch – at what age can he start the ball skill of dribbling?
    See you soon. love Colin & Stephie

  7. Olivia says:

    Fantastic! I also enjoyed your brother’s account. I can’t imagine playing sport to live, as I’ve never been particularly sporty. I blame this on my mother being ordered to bed rest throughout her pregnancy so I wouldn’t fall out (so thank God I am healthy).

    I’m really impressed with my husband Jeff though. Even before his diagnosis at 13, he was active. Cross country running, riding horses, wrestling in high school, bodybuilding in his early 30s (imagine all the protein shakes, ugh), and competitive soccer until a bit later. His mother wrote in his baby book that he was never so happy as when he was in water, which is a bonus because swimming ought to be a requirement for CF sufferers. He swims every week and now we’ve joined a gym with…*drumroll*…a saltwater pool!! He loves it.

  8. LTP says:

    Tim, hi

    Your blog has revealed so much about you that I didn’t really know. You trully are an amazing chap.

    As for hockey, as you know I’ve not played this season for my own personal reasons. I miss it terribly though. To hear that you are still plyaing as you rapidly approach 40 is a real inspiration. I clearly take my health for granted. Having thought I was done with hockey, I think I will be making a comeback and I hope to be on a pitch with you and the guys very soon.

    Anyway, your blog is amazing

  9. LTP says:

    Sorry, I was meant to finish with…

    Your blog is amazing and it already seems to be inspiring all sorts of people, not just fellow CF sufferes. Please keep up the good work and I hope to have a drink with you soon where we can make a toast to the next 40 years.

    Take care.
    Luke

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