Having joined the Army at 16 years old, I have naturally lived for sport and being active and competitive. I could never afford to let my fitness levels drop for the constant fear of not being able to keep up with the boys and being unable to lead from the front and hold my ground. I thrived on being part of a close knit team and aspiring towards a united aim albeit a finish line, try, goal or any objective.
Following a successful tour of Afghanistan I lost all this upon being diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in my lower jaw at the age of 29. Within a month I had embarked upon a year of gruelling chemotherapy, lost my hair and was effectively bed ridden wondering if I would ever put on my uniform or play sport again. Once the tumour was under control I had extensive surgery to remove my jaw and rebuild it using the whole of my left fibula. I was left weak (and bald) due to chemo and unable to walk, talk, eat or smile properly due to the operation.
Whilst in this dark, frustrating place my boyfriend sensed I needed a challenge and , not being allowed outside or around people due to risk of infection, he bought me a putter. I would summon up enough energy to get up off the sofa and putt golf balls into over turned tea light holders on the carpet! I always thought golf would be a good game but never entertained it before as believed that it would not give me the exercise I needed and had written it off to be too time consuming.
On days when I felt stronger I would go to the local club's putting green and spend 20 minutes or so putting until I needed to sit down. When my leg got strong enough to begin transferring weight I found myself having a go at the driving range.
It was at this point I was introduced to an amazing charity - The On Course Foundation. They assist wounded, injured and sick members of the military in their rehabilitation through the means of golf. I was asked if I would like to attend one of their events with professional tuition to learn how to play golf. Despite extreme lack of confidence and nerves of all my visual scars, my lacking energy and fact I was wearing a wig I attended. This was the turning point - I had got the bug!
6 months later my boyfriend and I joined my first ever golf club and I got welcomed with open arms into the very friendly ladies section. I put in my three cards and got a handicap to start from.
This is certainly not a sob story in any way but to make others realise that being part of a golf club and playing golf can do more than you think even at the lowest level. It has given me something to concentrate on, an aim to aspire to, a way to get some exercise that isn't too arduous, it has given me a team atmosphere and friends that I miss from my much missed Army life and, with a medical discharge and loss of career on the cards now, it is a fantastic networking tool meeting new fellow golfers.
A year later I still await reconstructive jaw surgery but start the new year with a handicap of 22 eager to become the first lady to compete in The Simspon Cup for On Course Foundation members in the near future.