At age 11, Emily Gray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. She underwent vigorous treatments in chemo-therapy, but saw no results. Faced with the decision of losing her leg or her life, Gray knew that there was only one way forward.
“I didn’t even know what cancer or chemotherapy was at the time, but I knew I wanted to live,” says the now rising star.
No words can describe the pain she endured, but one thing’s for sure, Gray turned a rather unfortunate circumstance into something good. A paralympian and Springbok swimmer, nothing is going to stop her from achieving her goals.
“My dad was a huge guiding force in my success,” she explains. “From the day I came out of hospital, he set about helping me to find other ways of having fun. He was the one who first took me to Mandeville Sports Club for the physically disabled and it was there that I realised my disability is peanuts compared to others. Regardless of what the world thought, my future was still full of possibility.”
It was also there that she learnt: “you cannot be too hard on yourself if you don’t always perform well.
“My dad put a lot of pressure on me, but never more than I put on myself. I remember bawling my eyes out when I didn’t do well in a race, but crying wasn’t going to change anything,” Gray explains.
“It is natural to see constant fluctuations in one’s performance, and there are always moments of disappointment, especially as you get older, but beating yourself up over it has no purpose.
“There are so many different reasons for having an ‘off day’, from physiological to environmental factors, but success is not about perfection, it’s about perseverence. Take your mistakes or failures in your stride.
“This may seem obvious, but it’s really important to set attainable, reachable goals for yourself when it comes to exercise and training,” advises Emily.
“Make written reminders, and stick them up on your mirror or fridge door. If I don’t set myself a deadline and a clear idea of where I’m trying to get to, I struggle to stay focussed. Starting good habits is challenging, but once you’re in a routine it becomes a lot easier to maintain – a part of your lifestyle.”
Another important aspect to success, according to Gray is enjoying what you do.
“To stay healthy emotionally and spiritually, it’s so important to enjoy what you do, every day,” she says. “If I ever began to feel that I didn’t love what I do it would be pointless to continue dealing with the strain of it. Knowing that this is what I want and makes me know it is the right path for me.”