“I remember my diagnosis as if it was yesterday, in hi-definition…”
Saturday 17th March is the launch of my new ad-campaign for Muscular Dystrophy UK — a gift from myself to the charity. I wanted to give something back to them as a thank you from me and my family, and it starts with the line above.
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity bringing individuals, families and professionals together to fight muscle-wasting conditions. Along with some friends, I decided to make a short film highlighting the importance of our muscles and how none of us should take ourselves for granted. You can see the video for yourselves online, showing the journey from the lonely times at the very start to being surrounded by many friends who are willing to help me and others.
At the point of my own diagnosis I was a car mechanic, or a motor vehicle engineer, if you wish. This was a job that I loved so much and yet I would have to give it up. So what was I going to do? I wasn’t highly qualified, I didn’t go to university, but I would have to re-train for a new career and I wanted to do something to help myself and others.
I needed to better myself, keep fighting, and get in a position where I could see for myself the industry that could help me. So that’s what I did.
I took all that I knew about the motor vehicle industry and applied for a job at VW UK. This was initially as a collection and delivery driver, I then applied for a fleet sales position and took every opportunity it had to offer, and this also gave me some IT experience. With my new found IT skills I applied for a job in purchasing for a re-seller, a builder of super computers! All the while I was learning more and more, pushing myself and burning both ends of the candle to get where I needed to be. Ten years ago, with all my experience, I started to work for a pharmaceutical company that deals with clinical trial documentation. I now get to see progress with drugs and conditions such as cancers, stroke, epilepsy and indeed my very own degenerative disease.
Which leads me nicely back to my beloved Leeds United and the ‘Keep Fighting’ ethos. I can imagine this has been written about a thousand times before I put pen to paper, and indeed the origins will hardly need explaining, but it’s due to the one of the most famous number fours in football — Billy Bremner.
On the back of being honoured with the captain’s role, Bremner placed the number plate on his dressing room peg for all to see.
“I wanted it to be a constant reminder to the rest of the lads,” said Billy, “that no matter what we are faced with in life we will keep fighting until we can fight no more, and even then, defeat wasn’t an acceptable option for us as individuals, as a team, or for Leeds United.”
I took that from Billy and I’ve used it ever since in my life to deal with my problems, and even more so after I went to Stamford Bridge.
During my days at the above mentioned IT company I was purchasing a lot of Samsung screens, and at the time they were the sponsors of Chelsea Football Club. I was invited to entertain my company’s customers in an executive suite and I couldn’t say no, some of these contracts were huge, and the customers very important. I tried my best not to have a good time and, as you would expect at these occasions, ‘club legends’ would visit the suites, talk with people, have a drink and move onto the next box.
I felt so out of place when Peter Osgood and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris walked in expecting everyone to want pictures and autographs. After the initial excitement had died down and they were just about to leave I told them I was here on work and was actually a fan of Leeds United, in their backyard! They explained their hatred for that Leeds side and Billy in particular, and the reason was that they never gave up; it stuck in the back of their throats. I could tell that while they were trying to be hospitable and keep their dignity, it really did grind their gears. Osgood said, “Other teams would lie down, but not your lot. They kept getting up and that made me want to thump them more!”
So you see I do keep fighting for myself and others, because Billy was right: it is not acceptable to give up. I would be letting so many people down. And I love the fact that his determination and stubbornness really wound others up — and I heard that straight from the horse’s mouth.
The #MusclesMatter video was shown on the big screen at Elland Road on the day of the Sheffield Wednesday match, and online from the evening of Saturday 17th March. It’s part of a continuing campaign of fundraising and awareness raising, that has already paid for almost 300 hours of research into Muscular Dystrophy. Find out how you can help by following @HywoodMartin on Twitter and watching the video, right here.
(artwork by Grady Tidy)