05/11/2021 by MS Queensland

Bruce's story - living with MS and playing boccia

For most of his life, Bruce was an engineering tradesman. He’s often described by his friends and family as a social butterfly, someone who can’t sit still and who’s always finding things to do. This has still been the case since Bruce was diagnosed with MS in 2004 when he was 46 years old. Once diagnosed, Bruce had to give up work, as he was unable to operate heavy machinery. Yet during this time, he tried to focus on what he could do and not what he couldn’t. Persevering through the symptoms saw Bruce continue walking for as long as possible, using walking sticks and crutches until he eventually had to use a wheelchair in 2007.

“It took a while to get diagnosed, but my Specialist thought it a redback spider bite that what brought it [MS] out and triggered it. First, they sent me to a Spinal Surgeon because they thought it might have been my back as I had developed a limp and foot drop meaning my foot was dragging. The Spinal Surgeon did an MRI and that’s when they picked up that I have MS and I was referred to a Neurologist,” said Bruce.

Keeping in the spirit of focusing on what was possible, Bruce began playing boccia after a friend introduced him to the sport – now, it’s a huge part of Bruce’s life. Bruce’s first boccia tournament was in 2008, a year after he transitioned to a wheelchair. That year, Bruce took out player of the season and has since been named state champion in 2009 and 2011, as well as a runner-up in 2010 and 2012. Fast forward to 2021, Bruce has won silver and gold in his first two rounds of the current boccia series.

Bruce receiving boccia medal

“I was introduced to Boccia through a friend also living with MS, Matthew. He’s unfortunately since passed away. I liked the game and I’ve been playing it ever since. I’ve had quite a few achievements with it. In my first tournament, I got ‘most improved player’. I then competed in my first national competition and finished runner up in the pairs. It just kept going from there. Last year, I got ‘most dedicated award’ for my club last year in 2020.

Bruce has been working with MS Queensland from diagnosis, helping him manage his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan to get the support he needs. The Physiotherapy team is also working with Bruce as he continues competing. Bruce and his wife are heavily involved in the Moreton Bay support groups for those living with MS and love keeping everyone in high spirits.

“The Moreton Bay group is just getting bigger and bigger. You get good support. We don’t talk about doom and gloom; we talk about the positives. A lot of them say that they use me as inspiration because of my achievements, but they all have great achievements too. I think anybody that gets a diagnosis, it’s a real shock. My wife’s always said to me, “instead of looking at what you used to do, look at what you can do.” That’s what we focused on to be positive, so I don’t get withdrawn and close the doors. I think it’s important that people get out and about. Go to these MS support groups and try stay active for as long as you can.”

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