Meet the Member: Jodie beats cancer and flourishes with Portway gym routine
For the last two years, Jodie Millard, 19, has been attending Portway Lifestyle Centre using specialist exercise programmes to turn her life around after beating a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer that resulted in her having a leg amputated. Portway is a centre of excellence for people with disabilities and has helped her attain fitness standards that would enable her to compete at elite Para-Sports level.
With her all the way has been SLT Portway instructor Scott Parish, who is both well qualified and experienced in training people with disabilities - and the two have established a remarkable bond based on mutual trust and respect and a desire to really challenge physical and mental boundaries.
Jodie explains: “Scott’s been an absolute rock and I owe him so much. Not only has he pushed me to the hardest fitness levels possible with a highly personalised plan geared totally towards my needs, but he’s really helped with my confidence and emotional strength too, as I initially had anxiety issues about being in new places and around new faces.”
“With his care and attention I’ve really come out of my shell and now enjoy working out with other disabled and able-bodied members alike, especially on the Synergy 360 gym station where we all motivate one other and gain inspiration from each other’s achievements. The distraction also makes you pay less attention to the muscle burn and keeps the training fresh, fun and less of a chore.”
“Scott encouraging and pushing me in all ways has also opened up new avenues and opportunities and now – apart from my regular gym workouts and one-to-one sessions with Scott - I’m looking to join in some of the other classes like Spin, which has got some really good feedback from other amputees that attend Portway.”
“I’m not surprised at all, because SLT has been amazing to me with all the staff very welcoming, eager to help and nothing too much trouble. They strive to make you feel at home and are flexible and really adjust to your needs and state of mind.”
Scott says: “Jodie has been an absolute pleasure to work with and despite the fact she had lost her sense of self and perspective when we started, I felt an inner strength and resilience and almost subdued determination to get stronger and better in the aftermath of such traumatic circumstances. “
“Building a professional relationship requires empathy and real concern for your client’s best interests and it has to be sincere, so once mutual trust is established you can make real progress and Jodie’s mind, body and character have become much stronger and her ability to manage her pain threshold is an obvious adaptation from her training.”
“We started with functional and core strength training utilising equipment and movements that would help her transition from a seated wheelchair position to standing, in preparation for the arrival of her first prosthetic. Remedial exercises that mimic movement patterns wake up the nervous system and help the body to stabilise during locomotion and gait – and our multiple direction (tri-planar) training quickly improved Jodie’s strength, stability, balance and coordination.”
“The hydro pool here at Portway has also been enormously beneficial to Jodie because apart from replicating walking movements and aiding performance it also assists recovery – there is less toll on the body with regards to gravity, so the support, hydrostatic pressure and warmer temperatures mean you can really push on and achieve so much more.”
It all began back in 2014 for Jodie when aged just 14 a freak trampolining accident at school revealed the osteosarcoma bone cancer tumour and after four unsuccessful months of chemotherapy treatment she was faced with the unenviable choice of rotationplasty (whereby the remaining lower section of the leg is rotated before being reattached to the healthy upper section, but ruling out playing sports and looking very unsightly) or to remove the affected limbs via amputation.
Her lifelong passion for sport and physical activity made the latter a surprisingly easy choice and Jodie continues: “Pretty soon after the amputation I was playing one of my favourite sports in badminton again and then I began attending Selly Oak Rehabilitation Centre regularly for my prosthetics, but the travelling became a problem and my physiotherapist told me about Portway Lifestyle Centre and that it had great feedback from other prosthetic users. It was right on the doorstep too and had a less clinical feel to it for me.
“Portway felt right straight from the start and although my first activity limb incorporating a prosthetic knee joint (aka the blade) took a bit of getting used to as it’s designed specifically for running, I quickly made great strides with Scott and was even going to Cosford Athletics Arena for sprint training and also the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham for canoeing trials.
“By then my fitness levels and body composition had changes dramatically and Scott reckons I could have done either sport competitively, but again travel time and costs, plus study and work commitments were an issue - and I’ve now decided to concentrate on a career in the medical sector after a hugely enjoyable stint as a healthcare assistant.
“My gym sessions 3-4 times a week at Portway will always continue, as it always uplifts my mood and keeps me staying positive plus Scott and I are doing some more out of the box thinking in our sessions to see how far we can go with things.
“Just four months ago I also got a new state-of-the-art prosthetic leg, as they’re finally available via the NHS and the C-leg as it’s called is very similar to the new limbs received by soldiers who have lost legs in bomb blasts. With a built-in microprocessor it’s the best available in terms of technologically advanced functions and is safer, more dynamic and much closer to a natural walking pattern.
“It’s given me a new lease of life as unlike the previous one it allows me to do extra cardio work in the gym on the bike and treadmill, plus Scott’s helping me with the skill sets and adaptations required – as your brain and body have to learn to use the new limb as an extension of yourself.”
Jodie's story is inspiring and a great example of perseverance and determination, to find out more information about Portway Lifestyle Centre visit www.slt-leisure.co.uk/our-centres/portway-lifestyle-centre/