‘He who has a why can bear any how’

I remember the night I heard. It was a hot summers evening and I was trying to get my new born baby to sleep. I was feeding him in the rocking chair wondering what I was doing wrong. No matter what I did he just wouldn’t sleep. I hadn’t slept for more than a few hours since giving birth a few weeks prior and I was doubting my ability as a mum, feeling under pressure to get things absolutely right, pushing any offer of help aside for fear that people would think I couldn’t cope. Despite the lack of sleep, self doubt and worry, one thing was absolutely clear in my mind. This baby, this amazing little baby that had been created was invincible. He could and would be ANYTHING he wanted to be. And if anything tried to get in his way, I would defend him with my life.

Then the phone rang. A friend from the gym called to tell me that a client of mine aged 17 had been involved in an accident leaving him paralysed from the neck down. This client was Henry Fraser. I knew his family well. They were a family I admired and always looked up to. I gave his dad Andrew the occasional (painful but necessary) massage, I taught his older brother Tom at school (not sure how much he learned, I was pretty cruisy), took his mum, Fran through her paces at our weekly spin classes, celebrated the success of his other brother Will making it in to the first team at the Saracens Rugby club and enjoyed the cheeky banter of his little brother Dom when our paths crossed in town. It was probably Henry that I knew the least well but that was soon to change.

In a heartbeat my view of life changed. Looking at Jack, just weeks old, so new, innocent and full of potential I realised that we have no control over what life throws at us and no amount of love is going to shield them from the fragility of life. But what we do have is control over how we react to such challenges.

It also changed the way I felt about my body. Up until that day, I must admit I only saw the imperfections. From a young age I suffered with body dysmorphia (not that I knew that then!). I was always comparing myself to others and setting an unachievable bar with how I thought I should look. I wasted so much energy on feeling ‘fat and ugly’ and missed out on being present at important events like weddings and special occasions. Instead of seeing what a brilliant machine I had been blessed with, for decades I was consumed insecurity and despair.

It took me a good few months to build the courage to visit Henry. I was concerned that when I saw him I would be a blubbering mess and no support what so ever but I needn’t have worried.

When I arrived, I was greeted with the usual Fraser warmth from Fran who has always been so welcoming. I was taken upstairs to Henrys room and there he was – as gorgeous as ever with a big smile on his face. We had a good chat and I was instantly amazed by his positivity despite the challenges he had faced in the previous months. This guy was not going to let a near death experience leaving him paralysed get in the way of his life. Even in those early days he had a strength of character that blows my mind.

I offered to massage Henry as part of his rehabilitation programme and my journey with Family Fraser deepened. Jack would occasionally come with me and he loved (and still loves) the fact he knows a real life ‘super hero’. When we moved to New Zealand, I missed the interaction with Henry and his family. He had come so far in the 4 years since his accident and had such grit and determination to set and smash goals. I found his positive outlook infectious and although the 1000s of miles between us meant I couldn’t physically help him anymore, I took to fundraising for his trust.

You might be wondering where I am going with all this but I believe we all have to be motivated by a ‘why’. My ‘why’ came about in the most unexpected way and led me to have a deep connection to something WAY bigger than myself. The feeling is so deep, so raw and so profound that it drives me to run half marathons with no training, take back to back spin classes and dig deep when the going gets tough both mentally and physically.

My ‘why’ has meant that when I am in ‘Henry’ mode, I will stop at nothing to get the job done, no matter how much I am struggling physically. My ‘why’ drives me to make a difference to other people without expecting anything in return and my ‘why’ allows me to overcome my innate fear of not being good enough. When we can look at our lives and how we can make a real difference to those around us, our sense of purpose is defined and it gives us the power to be so much more than we ever imagined.

With the love and unwavering support from his family and friends, Henry has overcome huge obstacles and inspires people to challenge and better themselves no matter the circumstances. In the 11 years since his accident, he has become an accomplished mouth artist, written two best selling books ‘The Little Big Things’ and ‘The Power in you’ and Pre COVID-19 gave motivational speeches around the UK. His family have shown that no matter how dark the cloud, with love, faith, hope and ‘why’ adversity can be a blessing.

As for me, I feel grateful every day that I have people around me to challenge my thoughts, inspire and push me to get over my own wall – for it seems, we are only limited by our own beliefs.

To see Henry’s fantastic mouth art visit www.henryfraserart.com

Links to his best selling books: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=henry+fraser&search=Find+book