"Nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves. The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
Carol Cooke is a Paralympic Gold Medallist Cycling Champion, a World Cycling Champion, 2013 Victorian Cyclist of the Year (beating Cadel Evans and Simon Gerrans), an Order of Australia recipient – and she has multiple scelerosis.
Carol was diagnosed with MS when she was 36. At the time of her diagnosis her neurologist said to her: "You have MS. Your life as you know it is over. Go home and put your affairs in order before you become incapacitated."
Cycle of Life
What would you attempt to do if you knew that you couldn't fail?
Many of us are scared of change or trying something new, fearing we may be unsuccessful, or look silly. Why change what we're comfortable with? We're happy with the status quo.
But what if your life was thrown into chaos with the diagnosis of a chronic illness? Would you be able to continue? Would you be able to try something new? Or would you grow resigned, and surrender to your fate?
Carol Cooke was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but has gone on to embrace the changes and challenges in her life. She set herself goals many others wouldn't have dared, and has gone on to win Paralympic Gold and also become a World Champion.
In this, her first book, Cycle of Life – A Gold Medal Paralympian's Secrets to Success, Carol shares her secrets to overcoming adversity, accepting change, finding your hidden courage and creating a winning mindset.
Carol truly believes that if you dare to face your fears and believe in yourself you can overcome anything.
Cycle of Life
Author: Carol Cooke
Question: What inspired you to write Cycle of Life?
Carol Cooke: I had always wanted to write a book but I just wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take it. I felt like I had a lot to impart to others in regards to overcoming challenges, adversity and change. I hired a mentor who set me on the right path and to be honest because I was paying her to mentor me I didn't want to be wasting my money so it was important for me to finish it.
Question: Did you have a certain audience in mind, when writing Cycle of Life?
Carol Cooke: Well I didn't have just one certain type of audience in mind. I think that I wanted the book to speak to anyone who is going through change whether it be good or bad. Or people who had adversity put in their way and weren't sure how to get around it. So the audience is really wide ranging from your stay at home mum's, high school students and people in the corporate world. We all deal with change and adversity in our lives and I was hoping that this book could help.
Question: Was it difficult to relive certain aspects of your life when writing Cycle of Life?
Carol Cooke: Not very difficult as I think that even the bad things that have happened like my diagnosis have turned out to be good in the long run and I have come to terms that I live with MS and it doesn't define me as a person but enhances my life.
Question: What do you hope readers take from Cycle of Life?
Carol Cooke: I want readers to realise that although we all hate change or have bad things happen to us we can learn and grow from them. My motto is that we have to have the Courage to take a Chance and embrace Change. Most of the time it is just fear that is keeping us from accepting change and when we finally do accept change so many doors of opportunity can be open to us.
Question: You're participating in the MS Sydney to the Gong Ride; can you talk about your training?
Carol Cooke: Funny enough my training hasn't been the best. I have had a big year of racing, an important year of getting points for the country so we can get as many spots in cycling for Rio. So I took a couple of weeks off in September after our last World Cup and when I started back training immediately got sick. So I have just started back this week and it is just important to build my distances but not overdo it so that I get sick again. I'm lucky in that I have a very good base of training behind me and I look at the MS Gong Ride as an enjoyable ride, not a race. But I am back in full swing, riding almost 6 days a week with 3 gym sessions and 2 swim sessions a week.
Question: What advice do you have for other Australians diagnosed with MS?
Carol Cooke: Don't stop moving. It is so important to keep exercising and keep our bodies moving. Even if you have a lot of disabilities you can exercise. Put a life jacket on and get in the water. Just moving your arms and legs around is exercise, it fires the neurons in our brains to say 'hey I'm doing something". Keep a positive outlook on life. Multiple sclerosis is a crap disease to live with but I believe that the more positive and fit we can be the better the outcome.
Interview by Brooke Hunter