Special wheelchair keeps St Albans cancer survivor bowling clever at club

Cllr Roma Mills, Mike Cowell & club president Ted Marriott

Cllr Roma Mills, Mike Cowell & club president Ted Marriott - Credit: Archant

After beating testicular cancer, a St Albans man feared radiotherapy treatment given several decades ago might end up robbing him of the chance to play bowls.

But a specially designed wheelchair has enabled keen bowler Mike Cowell to keep active and continue his sport - with the added bonus that it does not damage the manicured green.

Townsend Bowls Club recently hosted its traditional opening day fixture for 2016 which provided the first opportunity to see its new bowls wheelchair in action.

Mike said: “It will enable disabled people like myself to continue to participate in or take up our sport.”

The 65 year old developed a condition which gradually disabled him more and more over the years, as a result of radiotherapy treatment he received at the age of about 30, when he was found to have testicular cancer.

He explained: “The treatment cured me and I was fine for many years. But I became aware while playing tennis that I was beginning to stumble, and over the last 10 years my legs became weaker. I started to walk with one stick, then two, and now, my mobility is very poor.

“The diagnosis is that I have a condition called peripheral neuropathy.”

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According to Macmillan, radiotherapy may damage nerves within a treated area, causing symptoms such as numbness or weakness, which may develop months or years after treatment. However, this occurs rarely.

Mike said that up until recently, he had been playing bowls by leaning on his walking sticks.

He went on: “I knew that when this season started, I wouldn’t be able to play unless I had a special chair. This has been designed so people can use it on the green – an ordinary wheelchair would be too heavy, and its wheels would cut up the surface.

“This wheelchair has been designed almost like a roller – the wheels are very wide.

“I found it difficult to bowl from initially, as all the power comes from your arms and shoulders, rather than transferring your weight onto your legs, but I’m used to it now.”

A happy Mike, who became ‘hooked’ on bowls several decades ago, added, “It’s prolonging my ability to continue bowls.”

The opening day fixture was held between club presidents Ted Marriott and captain Les Perkins. The game was won by the president’s team, 72 shots to 61.

District councillor for Batchwood Roma Mills was invited to officially open the green by bowling first.

Cllr Mills commented on the club’s ability to make bowls ‘inclusive’ through use of the special wheelchair.

Its acquisition was made possible with a grant to Townsend Bowls from Hertfordshire Community Foundation.

Mike said: “Ros Cramp from Herts Disability Sports Hub was particularly helpful in coordinating the grant application on behalf of the club.”

• For more information on testicular cancer, see www.itsinthebag.org.uk or www.orchid-cancer.org.uk