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Kadeena Cox: ‘There are nights I can’t sleep because the spasms are so bad’

‘There are a lot of things I have to deal with,” says Kadeena Cox. ‘Just injecting myself on a daily basis is something I’d rather not have to do.’ Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

The first British Paralympian to win golds in two different sports since 1984 on MS, causing a stir on reality TV and proving people wrong

“There are days when my legs don’t work, so I have to be in my wheelchair” Kadeena Cox says as she explains how all the medals, fame and award nominations cannot cancel out the stark reality of living with multiple sclerosis. “There are days when I’m spasming to a point where I can’t even push my wheelchair because my arms aren’t working and my legs aren’t working. There are nights where I can’t go to sleep because the spasms are so bad or the neural pain is so bad.”

Cox is not feeling sorry for herself. She is a remarkable athlete and an incredible person – a friendly, bubbly and resilient character who is determined not to let her condition define her. It has been six months since she made history at the Paralympic Games, becoming the first British Paralympian to top the podium in two different sports since 1984, and she was Great Britain’s flagbearer for the closing ceremony in Rio. She is a contender in two categories at next Saturday’s Lycamobile British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards, a celebrity contestant on reality television and an inspiration to many.

The 25-year-old, who won athletics and cycling golds in Rio, speaks about young girls asking her for pictures in the street – “I get slightly annoyed if I’ve got bushy eyebrows or I haven’t got any make-up on, but apart from that I love chatting to new people” – and tells a story about receiving a message from a man whose wife has MS. “He said that while my journey had helped her and he doesn’t have MS, it has pushed him to get back to the gym and try new things,” she says. “It’s crazy to think that me running around and cycling in circles has managed to do that. But knowing it gives me a warm feeling inside.”

But do not think for a moment that she would not go back to her old life. She was a promising able-bodied athlete before being diagnosed with MS in 2014, shortly after having a stroke. We only see Cox at her best now, but we don’t see her daily struggle. “There are a lot of things I have to deal with,” she says. “Just injecting myself on a daily basis is something I’d rather not have to do. This could get worse with my next relapse. I don’t know. I’ve learnt to get used to the things I deal with now. But it could get worse in the future, whether it’s near or far.”

Such precariousness explains why Cox, choosing to live in the moment, ignored the concerns of her athletics and cycling coaches by deciding to accept an invitation to appear on The Jump. Based around celebrities trying to master winter sports, seven contestants were forced to pull out because of injury last year. Beth Tweddle, an Olympic gymnast, underwent surgery on a broken neck.

Cox, the only contestant with a disability on the show, has caused a stir. UK Athletics has suspended her funding during her time on the show, while her cycling career has also been put on hold. She is expected to return to full-time training in time to compete in the World Para Athletics Championships in London this July, has wondered if double standards are at play, bearing in mind that Jade Jones, a double Olympic taekwondo champion, has not had her funding cut by her governing body.

But she will not be knocked off course, even though she is a novice skier who ended up tangled in the netting the first time she tried to swerve on the slope. She has mastered the art since then, an encouraging development given that she wants bobsleigh to be introduced in the Winter Paralympics so she can compete in the two-man bob, but hardly a surprising one.

Cox has proved people wrong before. Her coaches wanted her to pick one sport before the Paralympics and her mother worried about her draining schedule. MS is a debilitating neurological condition that depletes energy levels. Yet a day after claiming athletics bronze in the T38 100m, Cox produced a world-record ride to clinch C4-5 500m time trial gold in the Rio Velodrome. She had only been cycling for 18 months, but she loves a challenge. Four days later, she won the T38 400m and finished the Paralympics with four medals after collecting silver in the T35-T38 4x100m relay.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by THEGUARDIAN
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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