Firstly apologies, I did say that now we are out of lockdown and creating a new normal, that I would seek to keep you more informed of what is and has been happening with all things Chequered Flag Motorsport. Unfortunately, not only volume of work, but also health issues have prevented me from doing this.
So, if I turn to health issues first. My stroke journey has been well documented as have my ongoing battles with fatigue. As my workload due to the success of Chequered Flag Motorsport has increased then the pressure upon me has increased which in turn has magnified my fatigue, regularly confining me to bed.
For those unfamiliar with this type of fatigue, it is very different to normal tiredness that a quick sleep will resolve. It manifests itself as brain fog, dizzy spells and blurred vision, headaches, muscle and joint pain, sensitivity to light and sound, unfulfilled sleep, insomnia and a range of cognitive issues such as poor memory, confusion and spatial instability. Although by no means an exhaustive list, this is what my daily life had become.
One of the reasons I started CFM was because of this hidden ‘disability’. As people can see nothing wrong, they assume that you are okay. Even if they know something is wrong, they cannot differentiate between this and normal tiredness.
A little like mental health issues, my response to ‘’how are you?’’ was to respond with a smile and say ‘’okay, how are you’’. I was going through my life putting on a mask every day. What people didn’t see was the shell of a person that was struggling physically to get through each day. There were a few people who I shared how I was feeling with and in most cases, it was difficult for them to comprehend, which is understandable as so little is understood about this area, I don’t understand it myself so how could I expect others to?
To try and explain it, as a result of my stroke brain cells were killed and they will never be replaced. This phase results in paralysis, inability to talk etc, as the message pathways in the brain that carry messages have been destroyed. For the fortunate ones, new pathways are developed that enable lost functions to return. However, now that the brain is having to work harder and messages are travelling further, mental energy is used far quicker than in a non-affected individual, resulting in neuro fatigue as I have described.
Attempting to drive through this fatigue, as I had been doing only makes this situation worse, as the brain then consider itself under a traumatic attack such as the one that caused the stroke in the first place and, like a modern car, goes into limp mode. It got to the point where I was being made to feel guilty for feeling as I did and most disappointingly within the stroke community, that because I had no visible outward signs I was somehow less ‘disabled’ or suffering.
As a result of the above I had to step back a little and look after my health. However, my curiosity was pricked and I started researching something called Fibromyalgia and, indeed, was approached by a young lady involved in motorsport who was worried and reluctant to go public with her fibromyalgia diagnosis in fear of how she would be perceived.
The commonalities between what is broadly termed post stroke fatigue and fibromyalgia is striking to me and set me wondering whether post stroke fatigue is actually a category of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is usually brought on by a traumatic event (stroke?) and then several psychological factors then result in the ongoing symptoms, in my opinion there is little more stressful than coming to terms with stroke and a changed life.
In my own case, although over the years I had managed to cope with my fatigue and recognise the signs telling me to recharge, those that have followed this journey will recall that I had 3 lots of spinal surgery from 2020. This again was another traumatic event and it is from here that I have found the fatigue difficult and at times impossible to cope with. Frustratingly during all this time, frequent visits to see my GP have resulted in me been told nothing is wrong.
I am now working with a private medical company looking at links between my own condition and fibromyalgia and whether existing treatments for fibromyalgia work on my fatigue.
With all that touched upon, I’d like to more on and mentioned what has been happening with CFM. I must say first, there is lots in the planning and unfortunately due to the sensitive nature of future happenings, I can’t tell you about everything just now, but if you want advance notice of some unmissable events then visit the members section https://chequeredflagmotorsport.com/membershiparea . The £17 a month membership fee helps CFM with organising and inviting individuals that usually don’t get the chance to do the amazing things we are able to get organised, so your contributions are crucial in these areas, and we thank you in advance of subscribing.
April saw us hosted by Red Bull F1 for an absolutely amazing factory tour. The level of access we were afforded was unreal, and for Calum Foster, one of our young ambassadors, the day was made even better when he was presented with a personally signed Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing cap. Pictures of this can be viewed on our social media pages.
April also saw the start of the Ginetta Junior Championship at Donnington Park, and the start of a car racing career for another of our ambassadors, Alisha Palmowski and we were all overwhelmed when she secured a rookie podium in only her second ever race! We have on many occasions been fortunate enough to be present to witness first hand and behind the scenes just what has been going on at testing.
A busy month also saw me nominated for a National Start Up award in the Social Enterprise sector for which I had to submit a video for the judges. Not something I find easy to do let alone enjoy, but if it helps support others through the recognition alone, well worth it.
Moving into May we have held our second bespoke track day at Thruxton attended by various people battling neuro conditions, so not only stroke survivors but people on the autism spectrum, amputees battling PTSD and others. Feedback has shown that once again we delivered a memorable event.
May has also seen me talking to a community group on behalf of Huddersfield Town FC to increase awareness of all neuro conditions and the daily challenges faced. More to come about this in future blog posts.
So what is coming up? Well, there are some major projects that unfortunately I am currently unable to tell you more about, but safe to say of you follow our social pages and join our membership community, more will be revealed soon. What we do have are a few visits to BTCC rounds planned during June, we are in discussions with Brands Hatch and other circuits about bringing our track days to other venues. I have been asked to write a book and appear on podcasts about my own journey. I have been approached by a number of individuals recently wanting to tap into my experience of using motorsport to support charity and good causes.
So, as you can see, it has been far from quiet, I hope you will forgive my lack of communication and I look forward to sharing more updates soon. Stay connected and reach out if you would like to talk.