I transferred to the Hellfire Harlots back in March 2014. I worked and trained hard, eventually moving my way up to the advanced training sessions in May 2014. The reward to all this hard work was an exciting one, I made both A and B squads! I was excited as I would be making my official debut as a Harlot in the B team game against Sheffield Crucibelles July 19th 2014. I continued to work hard and bond with my team, full of emotions in the lead up to representing my league.
The weekend before the bout, Sunday the 13th July we had our usual scrimmage practice, ready to bring everything we had worked on together in preparation to play our hearts out. This Sunday was no different to the others, I arrived, kitted up and began warm up drills. Blocking in a four wall against a jammer in a home wrecker style drill, everything for me stopped and set something completely new in motion. Everything became a blur and the next thing I knew there was a sharp cracking noise as I fell to the ground. Any other time I would be back up on my feet and getting into position, this time my entire body stopped me from doing anything. I lay there with our wonderfully trained referees and skaters from a medical background, going through all procedures to ensure no further injury. My ankle hurt but it didn’t feel abnormal, but it was not normal enough to get back up. Helped over to a chair, I laughed the events off, joking that it was just a sprain and no worries guys – I’ll be fine for the game!
Those immortal words. I sat there for the next two hours as my ankle was RICE’d, watching and cheering on everyone in the scrimmage. Once practice was over, I was helped to the car and taken to A+E to check – just to be sure. The emergency doctor laughed with me, joking that it was more than likely just a bad sprain, but that it would need an x-ray. The x-ray came back and the moment of truth, oh look at that! It’s broken! – she laughed. I laughed too – good one doc! What I didn’t realise was that this was a laugh of disbelief. I had always thought broken bones were messy visible things, but there it was on the screen, a lateral fracture of the fibula.
I have been skating for a grand total of 20 years, I learnt at a young age, and for the last five years I have been playing roller derby on/off with university commitments. The idea of not being able to physically skate was a pretty destroying realisation.
I went through a whirlwind of emotions, anger, disbelief, depression and some form of acceptance of what had happened.
For the next few days I let my break affect me, the Harlots were so supportive and I couldn’t thank them enough. Some of the other Harlots have previously endured similar breaks – Finn, Kitty, Taz – so I knew I was in good company! These ladies knew my mental and emotional pain as well as the physical, throughout the experience each one gave me advice, support and smiley faces. Even though I had this support, there was a huge part of me that didn’t see a future in skating post-break; it had taken this long to break me and just my luck it had to be simply a bad fall. Having to rely on others to help me, not being able to travel to watch skating easily, falling behind with practice and seeing people move up and make squads, these things really got to me. It got to the point I nearly sold my skates. But today I am glad I didn’t. My check up visits meant I didn’t need surgery; I was healing well and would be able to have my non-weight bearing cast removed in 6 weeks time. I started to feel more positive about the future.
Lanny Bomb changed my world when she introduced me to a group of skaters who like me, were broken, but had built up this amazing support network. Throughout my break, these people supported me and gave helpful advice, even just told me jokes or listened to my rants, some with similar breaks, some with worse, and seeing the strength and determination of these people gave me hope. I began to brave going to watch sessions, something which had upset me when I first tried to watch my teammates skating without me being able to join them or even NSO. I followed advice and started with exercises the rest of my body could still manage – mostly core work and upper body, trying to work my cast leg and keep some muscle in my thigh. There were also skaters who stayed active within the group who were back on skates; most of these represented Team Metal Legs, a team made up of broken or injured skaters who had returned to play. In fact our very own Rosie and Finn were members! The discovery of this team became a huge turning point.
The week my cast came off was the most testing week. I had overcome being on crutches and in a cast since having a hip operation as a teenager made this familiar territory, adapting to this way of life was fairly easy to stomach. But learning to walk again? Go upstairs? Be self-sufficient? Even being able to walk my dog again? I was given a plastic splint to wear in my first 2 weeks of weight bearing, I started weight bearing immediately, with only one crutch for support where possible.
The doctor’s words “It’s only a sport” and “Maybe in four weeks you can try skating again” going round in my mind, I was determined to prove that it wasn’t just a sport and that I was going to skate again. Even if I learnt to referee I would skate again, I wasn’t giving up that easily.
The last day of wearing my splint, I went to see Team Metal Legs take on Team Crazy Legs, to support Rosie and Finn, and see some of the others who had helped me through the last few months. Watching TML, seeing each of them skate knowing what they had endured to get back on track, it hit me hard and shoved me right back into touch. It reminded me why I loved roller derby, why I worked hard and how much I enjoyed every moment of it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy getting back on skates, but I took every step possible to come back – starting with seeing a highly recommended physio very well-versed in dealing with the roller derby type. This became the best decision I could have made and I strongly think that without the right professional help I would not have returned the way I have. I did my physio, I worked on my core, I set goals and prepared to return.
October 14th 2014 was D-Day for me, time to put my skates on and jump in wheels first. With doing my physio, the desire to skate again, and an ankle support for confidence, my body stop trying to protect me and my ankle and just let me do what I love most. Almost 3 months to the day I broke, I skated again.
Team Metal Legs
Two months later, December 14th 2014, I had the honour of representing Team Metal Legs against Hulls Angels. Standing on track with a win under our belts, I felt proud and lucky to have skated with every member of that team. Since October, I had worked hard, listened to others and taken care of my mental derby state as well as my physical. I made the firm decision to make 2015 my year, to make up for everything I missed last year. I have made it through my break and come out better off, it may sound daft but breaking my ankle was the best thing that happened to me. I came back to skating with a renewed passion and determination. And all that hard work and hunger? It paid off.
February 1st 2015 – I (finally) made my debut as a Harlot, on the A Team, at British Champs. With a win. I felt proud to be there beside my teammates who had helped me climb my mountain.
February 28th 2015 – The privilege of playing on both the B Team and the A Team against my original roller derby league Birmingham Blitz Dames which was an emotional experience! And we did a double win which made the day even more incredible.
March 10th 2015 – I will have been skating with the Harlots for one year. A lot has happened in this past year, but a lot has also happened in the last 5 months.
Since my break, I have represented my league, skated with Team Metal Legs, improved as both as skater and player, made squads and teams, and had a blast doing so. A broken bone or physical injury can be overcome, it can be anything you want it to be, you just have to remember that you decide what happens. There is derby life after injury; you have the power to set your course. Even if you don’t return to skating, there is still derby life after injury in the form of NSO life and helping with the league.
I went from broken ankle to A team / B team in a matter of 6 months. Just think about what you could accomplish in 6 months if you put your mind, heart and soul into it.