Peter and family’s story: “Back Up is more than just a charity”

Peter and his Family smiling around the dinner table

When Peter sustained his spinal cord injury in 2018, when he was just eight years old, his family felt like their world was turned upside down. But with a lot of positivity and a little help from Back Up, Peter and his parents, Mandy and Martin, are now confidently living life to the full.

“In late 2018, Peter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. The tumour caused a spinal cord injury,” explains mum Mandy.

“Peter was in hospital for about six months and didn’t come home until about June 2019. It was a very tough time for all of us.”

“I got in touch with Back Up a few months later, initially just to talk to someone. I signed up for Back Up’s Family Mentoring Service and then had a phone call with my mentor to ask for help.”

“I just wanted to talk to somebody who understood. I needed to let it all out.”

Getting emotional family support

“Just being able to talk to someone a few years further down the line, and who could help me see what that would look like, was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t know how to approach problem-solving and she’d say, ‘We did it this way!’ Peter’s Dad Martin has benefitted from Family Mentoring too.”

“Peter had just gone back to school, and he was really worried about having to explain his spinal cord injury to everyone. So my mentor also referred us to the Education team at Back Up.”

“A Back Up volunteer with a spinal cord injury arranged a session for staff and an assembly for the children at Peter’s school.”

“The way he hosted it, it wasn’t an assembly about Peter. It was just an assembly about spinal cord injury, what it was and what it meant for himself. But that meant the other children had some context for what had happened to Peter and didn’t need to ask him any intrusive questions.”

The family also joined our online forum, the Back Up Lounge.

“It’s been great for us as a family, because if you haven’t met other people in similar situations, you can feel quite isolated. Back Up is creating a network of people all across the country who understand and can support you.”

“I still join the Back Up Lounge every fortnight. You can talk to other family members of people with a spinal cord injury, and they might have questions I can help with too. It’s a really powerful resource.”

“We like to go out on family bike rides. Living in the Peak District, it’s a very hilly area, and we still wanted to access that. My mentor helped us with advice on that as well. Peter now has a motorised hand bike that attaches to his wheelchair.”

Peter also has lots of fun staying active by doing stunts in his custom wheelchair at skateparks. He was inspired by Lily Rice, a professional at WCMX (a sport in which wheelchair users perform tricks like those seen in skateboarding or BMX trials). His specialised wheelchair lets him take on the ramps and banks at skateparks. You can follow his adventures on Instagram at @peter_wcmx.

Peter and his family enjoying a family bike ride together

Giving back to the Back Up community

The whole family are now active members of the Back Up community. After doing a Wheelchair Skills course through Back Up, Peter has now trained to become a skills trainer and group leader himself. He wants to support others gain skills and confidence through our courses.

“I got so much out of my mentoring, that when the opportunity came for me to take part, I knew I wanted to give something back.”

“When we first got in touch with Back Up, we assumed it would just be an advice line. But it’s so much more than that.”

“It’s not just a charity, it’s a community.”

“There are so many different Back Up courses, and you don’t see that with other charities. We haven’t even been in touch with any other organisations, because we’ve had all the support we’ve needed from Back Up.”

Find out how your whole family can get involved with Back Up, like Mandy, Peter and Martin, here.