April 01, 2022
In 2016, GoodGym Derby TaskForce member Naomi underwent surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma, a benign brain tumour on the hearing and balance nerve, which was diagnosed after she experienced regular falls, dizziness and a loss of sensation in her face. A positive and courageous phase of Naomi’s recovery transformed her into a runner, and the next part turned her into a GoodGymer. Here is Naomi’s amazing story.
I love the combination of exercise with supporting others, putting that energy to good use.
Naomi joined GoodGym Derby in late 2019. She was a runner before finding her local group but in GoodGym found a way to combine two of her passions. She said "I love the combination of exercise with supporting others, putting that energy to good use. The exercise improves my health. I'm happier for doing something positive in the world, and the organisations we help feel good when they see the impact of a short burst of people power. Everyone benefits!"
Naomi underwent surgery in 2016 for a brain tumour which although benign caused a number of problems before and after the operation. Naomi lost her hearing on one side which caused a loss in confidence as she found conversations and interaction tiring having to lipread, which often left her feeling exhausted. Naomi decided to start running to aid her recovery, take control of her health and give her some freedom, saying: “Running has been the greatest factor in my recovery”. Naomi’s transformation into a runner has been nothing short of inspirational. Just six months after her surgery she walk/jogged the Derby 3k fun run, and within a year she ran the full 10k distance. Naomi was spurred on by the opportunity to raise money for Brain Tumour Research. Following this, Naomi ran a half marathon for Child Bereavement UK and is currently training for her first marathon, which she will run to support Parkinson’s UK.
Naomi said “When I run, albeit with much effort and little grace, I feel free! Running seems to release the tension and help with the headaches. I think it’s a combination of the movement, fresh air and endorphins. Immersing myself in nature has improved my wellbeing, and through running I have discovered loads of beautiful trails in my local area. When I run with others I position myself to the left so that I have the best chance of following the conversation and when I run on my own I enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.”
Naomi explains, “ I lost part of my vestibular system, so went from falling over several times a day to being able to hold a (wobbly!) yoga tree pose. I still fall a bit, and so have to be careful when running; last year I had a broken nose and a sprained ankle from two separate running falls!”
GoodGym offers Naomi the perfect mix of exercise and good deeds. There are times Naomi has to focus more and listen to her body when it is struggling, and times where she is able to give a GoodGym session all of her energy. Naomi loves the flexibility of GoodGym in that she is able to attend sessions that suit her best, while avoiding something that wouldn’t be suitable - head torch plogging would be too challenging on her balance, for example.
“There’s no commitment to attend everything; you’re not letting anyone down by not signing up every week. This flexibility works for me and I’m sure for others whose busy lives or health conditions don’t always allow for a regular volunteering commitment,” she adds.
A weeding task in the sunshine would be a perfect day for me!
Naomi loves the community aspect of sessions, working alongside task owners finding out more about the organisations and how GoodGym benefits them. While Naomi is happy to attend a GoodGym session whatever the weather, she said, “A weeding task in the sunshine would be a perfect day for me!”, adding "I love that everyone has something to give to GoodGym. You don’t have to be a runner or fitness expert to join in - you might enjoy gardening or socialising, be passionate about improving your local area, love fundraising or cheering on others, or all of these things. The more people we connect with, the more we can help improve the lives of others and ourselves."
While it is a rare occurrence, a recent MRi showed that unfortunately Naomi’s tumour has started to regrow. Rather than risk further invasive surgery, Naomi is undergoing a procedure called stereotactic radiosurgery in April, which is done in just one day. The procedure involves a team of Neurosurgeons and Radiographers scanning her brain, mapping out the exact location of the tumour and using a machine called a Gamma Knife to deliver hundreds of focused beams of radiation to stop its growth. Naomi said she feels "both nervous and utterly fascinated" by the process, and is anticipating a far easier recovery from the surgery.
Naomi added: “I know I’ll be itching to get back to GoodGym. I love the physical aspects of the tasks, even more so than the running, and have met some interesting and lovely people each time. I’ve always been quite a shy person and have less confidence since losing my hearing, but there’s something about the people who get involved that makes you feel comfortable, included and valued.”
You can donate to Naomi’s marathon fundraising for Parkinsons UK here
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