Fiona is now a team captain (Picture: PA Real Life)
A woman who has survived multiple cancerous tumours is now a wheelchair basketball captain.
Fiona Carey was forced to retire from her education publishing job in 2012, due to ill health. But after seeing London’s Paralympic Games, she vowed to become an athlete herself.
The 60-year-old is now captain of Eastern Blue Stars – East Anglia’s only women’s wheelchair basketball squad.
She said: ‘I’ve always loved ball sports – handling and throwing and bouncing and catching is really exciting.
‘I love the feel of it – shooting and scoring – and it’s fast and competitive and hard. You’re working all the time.
‘Using a chair didn’t strike me as a barrier to sport. Far from it, I’ve found it liberating.
‘Anyway, I’m not in a wheelchair – I use a wheelchair.’
In a radiotherapy machine (Picture: PA Real Life)
Fiona first noticed problems in 2001 when she started coughing. She was later diagnosed with kidney cancer and medics said the coughing was down to a tumour, measuring 4 x 3 x 2inches, that was pressing on her diaphragm.
Surgery to remove her left kidney followed, but in 2003 her kidney cancer returned and had spread to her lungs – which led to more surgery.
Then in early 2011 – almost 10 years after her first diagnosis – doctors discovered further traces of cancer in her pancreas.
Over the years, eight tumours have been detected and Fiona has undergone surgery, radiotherapy and radiofrequency ablation.
She’s been in and out of hospital for years (Picture: PA Real Life)
One of her tumours was the size of a baked potato (Picture: PA Real Life)
Naturally, the past two decades have taken a toll on Fiona’s body and while she can still walk and stand unaided, she now uses a wheelchair to get around more easily.
Soon after retiring from her job, Fiona watched wheelchair basketball at the 2012 Paralympics, with her husband Howard, and was inspired to get involved.
Fiona, originally from West Yorkshire, said: ‘I went to see the paralympic basketball and when they started to play my mouth just fell open – I thought, “I could do this, this looks like great fun”.’
With her son and her husband (Picture: PA Real Life)
Fiona fell in love with wheelchair basketball after watching the Paralympics (Picture: PA Real Life/Dumbletons Photography Cambridge)
Not only did she learn to play but she even became captain of a women’s wheelchair basketball team.
She said: ‘I am prouder of that than any other single achievement in my life apart from becoming a mum.
‘I don’t have any neurological issues, but if I’m not using my chair I’m holding myself at the middle and huddling a bit – I look poorly and like an invalid.
‘But if I’m using my chair I can go anywhere and I don’t look poorly. I realised if I wanted to have any sort of independent mobility and be able to do things in life that this was the solution.’
Fiona practises every week with her club and every three weeks with the team – under former Team GB member Emily Scrivener.
She’s found a new love for wheelchair basketball (Picture: PA Real Life/Will Johnston Photography)
Fiona is captain of Eastern Blue Stars (Picture: PA Real Life/Will Johnston Photography)
In action (Picture: PA Real Life)
She’s also currently campaigning with Bedfordshire Railway Access Network (BRAN) to improve accessibility for wheelchair users at stations in the county.
‘People with disabilities don’t really want help. They just want straightforward access that doesn’t have to be arranged ahead of time,’ Fiona adds.
‘Also, we don’t just want to be able to join in. Society really misses out by locking disabled people away. We’ve got things to contribute to science, to art, to drama – and to sport.
‘It doesn’t make sense not to be able to incorporate everybody. It means everybody loses out.’
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