Surgery obstacles could not stop Gaelyn

Gaelyn Cokayne
Gaelyn Cokayne

When surgery complications left East London’s Gaelyn Cokayne 40% disabled, she didn’t let it get her down. Instead, she lost 40kg, started her own company and a blog, and entered the Ironman.

Cokayne will take part in the Ironman 70.3, also known as the half Ironman, in East London on January 25, and she blogs about her road to the starting line on – started in 2011.

“I entered my first triathlon, the sprint-distance Sunshine Coast Triathlon, in East London. During training for that, I developed chronic compartment syndrome in my lower legs, and was advised to rest for six months.”

The exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition did not go away with rest, and she was advised to undergo surgery.

“I had surgery to correct it. Unfortunately the surgery resulted in complications. I now suffer from left-sided foot drop.” Cokayne explained this meant she could no longer lift her foot or ankle and had to use a foot orthotic to walk.

While in bed for three months recovering from the last of three operations, Cokayne – a former paramedic – found herself making a life-changing decision.

“A lot had been taken from me with the disability, so I decided that I would take control of what I could. I decided that the moment I could walk I would work on my health and fitness.”

Cokayne worked out a diet and exercise programme for herself with the help of social media site Pinterest. The plan worked so well she lost 35kg. She then consulted a medical doctor, psychologist, dietician and a personal trainer, and developed her business, A New Weigh, through which she helps others reach their health and fitness goals.

With her weight loss and career goals being met, Cokayne started working on another goal.

“In January 2013 I watched my first Ironman 70.3 event and what started as a small whisper at the start of the race, ended in an overwhelming ‘You can do this too’ by the finish. I saw people of all shapes and sizes and ages and abilities completing this insane race and asked, ‘Why not me too?’

“I made the decision there and then to enter as soon as the entries opened,” she said.

Her husband, Chris, and stepdaughter Zoe were instantly on board and according to Cokayne, deserve a holiday for all their sacrifices. “Chris and Zoe have often driven a support vehicle on team rides, taking photos and handing out water and nutrition . . .

“My family have believed in me on the days when I didn’t quite believe in myself. My friends have changed the way we socialise so that it’s not all late nights out – waking up at 4am means bed before nine. I’ve felt so much love and support along the way, and am so grateful for it.”

To get ready for the Ironman 70.3, Cokayne – who represented KwaZulu-Natal in synchronised swimming and water polo – enlisted the help of the group Swim, Bike, Run, Coaching. “I am nervous about the bike cut-off and how I will cope with the pain in my leg, foot and back on the run.

“I’m going out there with a heart full of passion and fire, and will give it everything I’ve got!”

– Eleanor Douglas-Meyers

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