Angus spoke with Able Magazine about his diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy and how he and his family have learnt to cope.
When did you first suspect something wasn’t quite right?
In hindsight it seems like I should have noticed it much earlier, but I think the first time I really admitted to myself that something needed to be done was around the age of 22.
I’d gone to the doctors and said “Look, something’s not quite right with my legs here. I feel like I don’t move them in the same way other people’s do.” I think other people around me noticed it more than I did. They’d noticed my gait and my walk, but hadn’t wanted to talk to me about it because they didn’t know how to bring it up with me.
My brother began to comment about it and tell me directly that something wasn’t right. He’s quite open about stuff and he says what’s on his mind. He didn’t know what it was but cares about me greatly and wanted to let me know that something wasn’t quite right.
I just thought I was becoming unfit, unable to do sport (anymore), which for me was a bit embarrassing because I’d always loved doing sport. I was referred to a specialist. He said, “Don’t look it up, but it’s what’s called a proximal myopathy. I’m going to refer you to a specialist.” It was probably the worst thing you could ever say… I did look it up and found that sometimes it’s very severe with quite short life expectancies. I was in my mid 20s and I thought: ‘Oh, my God. What’s going to happen?’
I told my mum that something wasn’t quite right, but didn’t really explain it to her, or open up to her about what was wrong. I kept it bottled up because I couldn’t deal with the idea that it was something really bad, let alone then go and try to tell other people. I thought ‘If I can’t deal with it, how is everyone else going to deal with it’?
Unfortunately, at the same time my dad also became ill and passed away. So it was like a double whammy. I still didn’t really speak to anybody about it but at the same time I knew that my family knew that something was wrong. They knew I’d gone to appointments, but they didn’t know whether or not to speak to me about it or how to bring it up.
So you were protecting your family…
Yeah. You don’t want to push that bad news on them.
Was there a point where you needed to ‘confess’?
From the date of diagnosis, it probably took a full year before I told my family and friends. Lucy, my girlfriend and now my wife, gave me a lot of support, saying that I couldn’t hide this problem or go through it by myself. She told me: “You have to talk to people about it”, which was completely the right thing to do and I think from that moment on I became more open about it.
Since then you’ve started Limitless Travel, as a result of your experiences as a disabled person. Do your family view that as Angus having redefined his challenges as assets?
I think setting up Limitless Travel was the easiest way for me to normalise it but I think for them, there is that level of worry and I think naturally, particularly Mum and my sisters, do worry about me.
Now though, it’s a case of ‘Angus has got muscular dystrophy and he’s doing this’. He’s running Limitless Travel and it’s part of his life.
Obviously your future is incredibly bright; the business is thriving and Lucy’s expecting your first child…
If I’m honest, I think both Lucy and I would admit that if it wasn’t for muscular dystrophy, we might not be married now.
I think it teaches you to value what’s important in your life and to change your perspective, rather than just plodding along. I think we realised what we wanted to do and how to get the most out of life.
Why wait? I’m so excited and so glad that we’re having children now, rather than waiting to my 30s which I probably would have done otherwise.
I think I’m quite fortunate in that when I do get knocked down by stuff or have a negative thought, I work out very quickly that it’s not going to benefit anybody to focus on it.
Angus Drummond is the founder of disability travel company, Limitless Travel. www.limitlesstravel.org