Amanda on kicking goals and the value of strong support networks: part one
In this episode of the CFStrong podcast we hear from Amanda about her experience growing up with CF, the importance of her support network and—literally—kicking goals. Amanda discusses playing contact sport, how she dealt with her health taking her away from the sport she loved and her decision to get back on the football field. This is the first episode of our two-episode chat with Amanda.
“…as I was growing up, I kind of found that they were the reason why you got through the hospital admissions, or you got through the bad days was purely to have that support system. I have an amazing one. Absolutely amazing, even being 28 and working as hard as what I do, I have some amazing people in my life.”
Image: Jillo Foreman.
Deidre Gorrie: Hi everyone and welcome to the CFStrong podcast. My name is Deidre Gorrie and I’m the programs and support services manager for Cystic Fibrosis Community Care in New South Wales. I am in the incredibly fortunate position of being able to chat with some of the most amazing adults living with cystic fibrosis from around Australia for the CFStrong podcast series. The CFStrong podcast series covers a broad range of topics including the challenges and successes of those living with cystic fibrosis, where you will hear real firsthand experiences and stories.
Deidre: Hi everyone, today we are very fortunate to have Amanda joining us. Amanda is going to chat with us and share a glimpse into her life. Welcome to CFStrong. Amanda, would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself to our lovely listeners today.
Amanda: Thank you so much, Deirdre. Thanks for having me on, I’m really excited. My name is Amanda. I am based in Brisbane, Queensland. I’m 28 currently when we’re doing this. I have cystic fibrosis, obviously. And I work in the mining industry. But I also play AFL as well. So that’s my, my big out from work. I’ve been working full time since I was 18 and came out of high school. Yeah, that’s a bit about me. I guess there’s not much to it.
Deidre: I think there is, I think there’s a lot to it Amanda. I think you’ve done a good little intro taster. And we’ll just peel back some of those layers and find out a little bit more about your work. And I think we’ve coined the term today working in mining and kicking goals as our general umbrella term. So, we’ll dive on, and we’ll see exactly what that looks like. So, are you ready for me to kick on into the first question, Amanda?
Amanda: Yeah, let’s go for it.
Deidre: Yeah. All right. Let’s start by learning a little bit about your support system, because we all know that supports really are a fantastic resource, irrespective of whether it’s in the in the hospital environment or in the home environment. And who has been some of these supports and how they helped you throughout your life to get to where you are today?
Amanda: Yeah, it’s a really great question. I think for me, as I was growing up, I kind of found that they were the reason why you got through the hospital admissions, or you got through the bad days was purely to have that support system. I have an amazing one. Absolutely amazing, even being 28 and working as hard as what I do, I have some amazing people in my life.
Growing up, my mum and my dad both worked full time, worked very hard to make sure that my health was top priority, but also remembering that I have a brother who’s two years older. And when my mom and dad went there, my Nan and my Pa jumped in, and we’re certainly number ones, when mum and dad weren’t there. My Nan would do my physio twice a day, she would make sure I’m taking my medication, made sure I was out on the trampoline, making sure that I was just doing all the right things to keep healthy. And also, you know, I couldn’t go to kindergarten because there was a lot of germs and that kind of thing that my parents wanted to stay away from. So, it was very important that I, I stayed at home, and I was looked after there.
And then I have my brother who’s two years older, he is an absolute rock for me. He was there, he understood, he wanted to know, he wanted to learn. He knew when I wasn’t doing the right thing, he’d try and cover it up. But then he’d always give it away. He doesn’t have much of a poker face.
And then as I got older, I came across some amazing people in my lifetime going through high school, but mainly in my sporting life. So, I’ve got my best friend Ashley, who, you know, came into my life when I was in grade eight. We met at an AFL carnival I was umpiring so was she and that just hit off an amazing friendship. And she just wanted to know everything. She wanted to learn. She wanted to come to the hospital. She wanted to know the ins and the outs and what does CF mean, what, what does it entail? That was unreal.
Amanda: You know, to have somebody who she–just wouldn’t expect it, that somebody’s just met you, but they want to know everything, and she was absolutely a crucial part into what has happened in my life in the last probably 13/14 years. Definitely.
Well, not recently, but in the last couple of years. I have a beautiful partner Megan who has come into my life who has stepped into a world that she knew nothing about but is absolutely gone headfirst into it. She is at every appointment. She’s by my side when I’m not well, she makes sure I take my medication.
Amanda: I’m getting out and being active and making sure that I’m not, you know, if I’m having a bad day mentally or I’m having a bad day physically, she’s making sure that I’m okay. She’s there for me. That’s been a massive adjustment in my life, I think to just have somebody who cares and wants to be next to you. I’ve always had Ash and I’ve always had my family, but having a partner that wants to, wants to be involved, wants to learn everything. That’s something that I’ve, I’ve never had before. So, she’s a special one, that’s for sure.
Deidre: Yeah, it sounds like it. Absolutely. It’s really lovely hearing you talk about your support systems, and just that ability for them to step into your world, like you said, and see what it’s like at appointments, and you know, with your treatment, any medications, and just having them to help with that.
Amanda: I think it’s probably something that, you know, I know, a lot of my close CF friends, some have had that. But some haven’t. You know, some have struggled with that in terms of, you know, they didn’t finish high school, or they don’t play sport, or that’s not their interests. They haven’t, or they haven’t had the opportunity. Because they spend a lot of time in hospital. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve been, I would say relatively healthy, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been like amazing. Like some of the people you’ve had on the podcast. You know, I’ve certainly had a very good opportunity to definitely live and not have to worry too much about my CF.
But having those people around you to really show you that. Yeah, you’ve got this, but it’s not you. It’s not who you are. It’s what you have. But it’s not who you are. That for me has always been a very powerful thing and I’ve always said that it’s: I have CF, but it’s not who I am. And to have people around you that can see past that. Oh, you’re just somebody that has something and you’re sick is unreal. You know, that’s, you can’t find anything more powerful than somebody who just wants to understand and wants to learn. They also just want to be part of it, you know, how can we raise awareness? How can we, you know, how can we help better so that everybody else around us can understand and all our other friends can understand as well. So that’s super powerful.
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Deidre: What have you been doing, Amanda? Like, what are some of the activities that you’ve been involved in? And how did you step into that space, start playing those sports and doing those things? Because generally, we’re led to believe that in terms of cystic fibrosis and activities, you wouldn’t necessarily be saying, yes, dive into a contact sport.
Deidre: How did all this come to be? Yeah.
Amanda: Bubble wrap is not a term that my parents–
Deidre: Not, not an option.
Amanda: –my parents I don’t think have ever used.
Amanda: You’re just like everybody else, Amanda, off you go.
Amanda: I was a gymnast, actually, first up. So, my parents, obviously when I was born, not a lot of information out there. Google wasn’t around then. We were actually buddied up with another family here in Queensland, who we’re still very, very good friends with.
Amanda: Unfortunately, they did lose their daughter. But their son is still here. And he and I talk regularly. But I yeah, they encouraged my parents to get me into sports, something that’s gonna, you know, help activate our lungs and get them really moving. So, I was a gymnast first up for about 12 years of my life. Towards the end there, it was sort of 30 hour weeks training for gym. It was, it was a lot. I ended up getting a serious injury to my shoulder. Unfortunately, dismounting off a bar just came off incorrectly and dislocated my shoulder.
Amanda: I think it was sort of the light at the end of the tunnel for me. Yes, at the start, I was sort of like, that’s it. I can’t come back from this. But then I realised it wasn’t about coming back to gymnastics, it was about this has given me an opportunity to move on and go and explore other sports. And that’s when my passion for other sports sort of started to, started to grow, I would say. So, I went from there, obviously played soccer and touch football at school. I also started playing rugby league at school. And then from there–so that’s the contact parts straightaway.
Deidre: Yeah, it’s starting to come in, I’m seeing it now. Yeah,
Amanda: So obviously, being a female playing, playing in a mixed team is always scary, but obviously there’s padding you can wear so it’s not too bad. But mum and dad were always very encouraging of it. So played rugby league for six years at school and then I played a couple of years at club and then we had a sign on day at school for the local, the local sporting clubs and I was dead set, I was going to play soccer with all my friends, dead set on it.
Amanda: And then one of my really good mates at the time he came up to you and he was like, I just signed on for AFL and I got this really cool Brisbane Lions wallet. And he showed me, and I was like, Ah!
Amanda: And mum had come down on a lunch break. And she was like, I was like, Mum, I want to talk to you, and she was like, Yeah, what’s up? And I was like, I don’t want to play soccer. She was like, Okay, that’s all right. You don’t have to like, it’s okay. And I was like, I want to play AFL. And she looked at me and she, I come from a very big rugby league family. She kind of looked at me like what AFL. And she was like, okay, alright, so we went up, and we signed me up, and I got a really cool Lion’s wallet. And I was stoked. And from there, the passion for AFL sort of grew, it became a sport that I didn’t really know much about coming out of a rugby league family. But then I found that it was a very inclusive sport, hugely inclusive, and it was a sport that was going to excel forward specially for females. So, I stuck with it.
I did take a year off in 2018. So played with the boys U14s until I turned 14, and then you have to play girls. There wasn’t much of a pathway for girls after that, it was very rocky. But I am proud to say that I was, I guess, one of the leaders in getting that pathway opened up to where it is now. And I sort of played here and there while that pathway was very rocky and then got to women’s. I was 15 when I started playing women’s football. So being a 15 year old running around a field with, with women can be very scary. But I was lucky enough that I’m sort of shorter, can get under packs a lot faster. And I found that I had quite good tackling skills coming from rugby league. So transferables, it was great.
And then yeah, had to, had an operation. So, I had a portacath put in in 2018, I had a really bad stage in my health. So, I had a portacath put in. And that was a very daunting situation, I would say. To the fact that when you go to adults, and you start to transition into adult health care, they put more onus on the adult looking after themselves, more than your parents coming involved, and they will only bring your parents involved if needed, you know, big operation or something like that.
My parents were called in for a meeting regarding putting a portacath in because I was quite against it. Being quite against it was because they they told me that I wouldn’t be able to play AFL anymore. So, for me, that was my life’s over, you know, my best friends there. That’s where all my really close friends are. It’s over for me. 10 minutes before I was due to have the surgery, I just broke down. I just said no, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I don’t want my career to be over. And my doctor at the time, Scott Bell, said, alright, we’ll just stop it. He goes, it’s okay. We’ll stop the operation today. We’ll give you five days in, we’ll see how you’re going. And then we’ll look at the option again in five days. And I looked at him. And the daunting prospect of having a cannula put in for five days was just not something I wanted to go down the road of. So, I stopped him and said can I just call my dad.
Now, my dad is a big teddy bear. But he always knows what to say. So, I called him, and I just said Dad I don’t know about this. And he said to me, he goes–Scott asked me every, every time he sees me, what did your dad say to you? And Dad said to me, he said Amanda, professional AFL players get life changing injuries every year. He said there’s always an injury that will change your life. But you’re either gonna make the most of it. Or you’re going to let it get to you. And he said kiddo, nothing gets to you. He goes, you’re going to be an amazing coach. Or you’re going to be an amazing mentor to the next girl coming through with CF, he said and doing this only shows your strength and I got off the phone to him and I walked back in, and I said we’re doing this let’s go. And they took me straight down and they put my portacath in.
I was a bit mise–don’t get me wrong. I was miserable after that. I think I sat in hospital, and I wouldn’t do anything for the first three days. I was like no just leave me alone. I was in quite a dark place. You know my, my one thing I loved and the one thing I had a passion for and that I have so many friends at, and I shared with a lot of my friends that one thing was taken away from me. And that had never happened in my life. CF hadn’t taken something away from me and that’s what had happened.
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Amanda: I came out of it the other end alright. The team at Prince Charles was super supportive, amazingly supportive about it. Gave me what I needed and just were on my side about it. And that was, that was huge for me. Came out the other side, I ended up coaching. So, I went to play at a few different clubs, but I ended up moving to Zillmere football club where my best friend Ash plays.
Amanda: So, I moved there, ended up getting a coaching role there, which was absolutely amazing. I coached the under 15 girls for three years. Three years, three grand finals, three runners-up. It was a bit hurtful but it’s okay, these things happen. That year, the Zillmere Eagles actually had an opportunity to play on Metricon Stadium where the Gold Coast Suns play. And they needed extra players and Ash turned around to me, and she said to me, she goes what’s the chances we could talk your doctors into it. It had been seven months since I’ve had my port put in.
Amanda: I hadn’t done any contact work, because I got told I wasn’t allowed to. She goes what, what if we get a pad or something to go over the top of it, you know? And I said, we can only try. At this stage, you could see my health was starting to really deteriorate. I wasn’t playing sport, my lung function was going down. It was very obvious. So, I walked into my clinic appointment, I just sat down, and I just said, I’ve got something to talk to you about. And they were like yep, what do you want to talk about? I said, I’m going to play. I said I’ve got an opportunity to play a curtain raiser game to an AFL game, I’m going to play. And they looked at me and they looked at my lung function. And they said, well, we can track over the last nine years that your lung function’s always been very high around this time of year because it’s footy season. And we can see you’re actually starting to go down. So, we think it’s a good idea. But–there’s always a but.
Deidre: Yeah, I’m hanging for the but.
Amanda: You’re gonna have to do something about your port. I said, okay, no worries. So here I am absolutely bouncing out of clinic like I was on a high. I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of high ever. And I’ve rung Ash, I’m like I’m allowed to play, it’s happening. She’s pumped, I’m pumped. And then I’m like have to get a guard for my shoulder. Well, we’ll be able to do that, we’ll be able to find something. She was super positive and upbeat about it.
So went home, and I told mum and dad. Mum was a bit wary about it like, Oh, I’m not sure about this. I said mum, I just need a guard. So, we went out, we got a shoulder guard made up. So, we got a shoulder guard and then we got like a doughnut built into the shoulder guard that goes over the top of my chest port. It was unreal. It was so great. Like I ended up playing the rest of the season out in 2018.
Amanda: And then just went on from there, I stopped wearing the guard in about 2000, I think it was midway through 2019 that season I stopped wearing it. We found that the contact on my port wasn’t causing any issues. I’d also had a fall off my dirt bike earlier that year as well and there wasn’t any issues. So, they were happy enough that I didn’t have to wear the guard anymore. But we were cautious about it. We weren’t just going in making unruly decisions about me playing a contact sport with this new device without actually asking for advice and saying what can we do, you know, what, what should we do?
Deidre: You had the clinic team very much involved in the decision making, yeah.
Amanda: Very much involved and they were so impressed by my shoulder guard, so impressed.
Deidre: I’m impressed hearing about it. Just it’s amazing.
Amanda: Yeah, ended up just going from there. So just continued going, continued playing, moved clubs to Maroochydore, went to Maroochydore for two seasons. Absolutely loved it down at Maroochydore. But the travel from Brisbane to Maroochydore three times a week, it does get a bit much. But I made some amazing friends down there and some people who have shaped me and changed me and have definitely shown me that, you know, I’m just like everybody else, which is exactly what I needed.
And then this year, I actually took, I was going to take a step back from footy this year and just have a bit of a break. The old body’s not the way it used to be. But then I got a lovely phone call from one of my other really, really good friends who hasn’t been around as long as Ash, but Emma has been there through some very, very tough times. And she gave me a call and said we’re looking for some players down at Wilson Grange Would, would you come back, sis? and I was just like, oh, you know what? Yeah, why not? And that’s actually Megan’s club. So, my partner, that’s her football club.
So, we never used to play at the same footy club, we played against each other. But so, I ended up going down and playing at Grange this year. And it was, it was amazing, it was amazing just to meet a new group of girls who didn’t really know my story or did know who I was but didn’t really fully understand the extent of it. And it was just amazing to be in an open environment where people just see you for who you are. And not just that, you’re just the sick kid kind of thing.
Deidre: Yeah, wow.
Amanda: But footy’s like that. I, so I play the level just under the AFLW, so you have the AFLW and then I play in the QAFLW, So QAFLW and QAFLW development is sort of that next tier, moving into the AFLW. And I’m very proud that I still can play at that sort of top level. I do prefer to play in the development, a little bit less training and you can have a bit of fun, but I, you know, definitely know if I put my head down, I worked a little bit harder now that I’m a little bit older, I’d still be able to play that top league, but I appreciate that I am still there. I’m still up there. I still training with those clubs. I’m still, you know, definitely kicking it around with the best girls in the league. And I love that. I love that I’m still there. I’m 28, I have cystic fibrosis, but I’m absolutely kicking goals because of it. So, and I’m proud of that. I’m proud to tell anybody about it.
Voiceover: This is episode one of our two episode chat with Amanda. Stay tuned for the second episode.
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Also, a quick reminder that the views expressed in the CFStrong podcast may not be reflective of Cystic Fibrosis Community Care viewpoints. The podcasts are designed to share information and provide insight into the lives of those living with cystic fibrosis around Australia. This podcast was made possible thanks to support provided by the Australian Government and was produced by CF Community Care and CF Western Australia. Our theme music is Spark of Inspiration by Shane Ivers from Silverman sound. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you next time.