Two years ago Alexandra McCaffrey couldn’t even walk 10 metres, now the 41 year-old from Shepparton in Victoria will attempt to swim the 3.8km, ride 180km and run 42.2km that make up May 3’s Toyota IRONMAN Australia.
After two years of worrying symptoms, that included going blind in one eye and kidney inflammation, McCaffrey was admitted to hospital for a lumbar puncture to confirm what doctors suspected was multiple sclerosis.
Immediately after the procedure she woke to find she had no feeling in her feet or legs and was paralysed from the waist down.
“During this time, the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life was learning to walk again. In August 2013 I had completed my first half marathon and here I was six weeks later celebrating when I managed to walk 10 metres to the nurse’s station,” she said.
McCaffrey’s journey to IRONMAN started when, upon her release from hospital, she set herself the challenge of completing an IRONMAN 70.3.
In February 2014, just 14 weeks after learning to walk again, she achieved this goal; filled with confidence a full IRONMAN became her new goal.
“There are moments in your life that often change the direction you were taking and my paralysis was one of those pivotal moments. The first time my “walk” became a “run” I began crying because it was something that I could only dream of just a short few months before,” she said.
“My journey since that first 70.3 has been a roller coaster of constantly managing fatigue, exercise, work, family, along with new medication and relapses. I have had an amazing coach, Anne Maclean, who has been ever present and who has many, many times had to change my training schedule due to my illness,” she said.
Although McCaffrey won’t be breaking any records on race day she will be creating her own piece of personal history and showing her children that no matter what the barriers you face in life, be they mental or physical, anything is possible.
“Each time I run, I remind myself of just how far I have come, and the struggle it was to stand independently let alone walk. The time I spent in hospital being swung around on a hoist and not able to do anything for myself seems surreal, however it gives me a greater appreciation every day of my body’s capability,” she said.
Race day will also include over 1800 age group athletes chasing their own personal bests.
Race day is on Sunday, 3 May 2015.
Courtesy Ironman Asia-Pacific