“My skin was so hot that I could boil an egg on it when I heard the diagnosis” – Pedro Sottomayor

Depending on when you read this story, take a few minutes to remember what you were doing when you were 28 years of age, or if you have not yet reached that milestone, imagine all the things you would like to be doing as you approach your thirties.

At just 28 years of age, Pedro Sottomayor had his life turned upside down one afternoon in a doctor’s surgery, with a diagnosis that shocked him. Pedro was already married to Margarida, had two young children, Ana and João, had a budding career in real estate and had started to play a little golf. Life was sweet.

Pedro had felt something in his right leg once or twice and had fallen on a couple of occasions. One time, Pedro recalls an old lady looking at him derisively and saying, “Oh just another drunk young guy”. But it was a troubling day in a bicycle race that made him realise there was something very wrong.

Multiple Sclerosis, like many other diseases, is something that happens to others, and yet 2.3 million people around the world live with the condition. “When they gave me the diagnosis, and someone is telling you that you have a disease that doesn’t have a cure, and you have got to live with that for the rest of your life, it’s a shock,” says Pedro.

Pedro explained how he felt when the doctor gave him the news, “My skin was so hot that I could boil an egg on it when I heard the diagnosis. When I was driving home, I [tried] to breathe slowly to calm down, because I felt like exploding.”
His reaction was severe, but, within a few hours, Pedro was already looking to the future. “Thank God I could integrate the diagnosis in 24 hours. I thought, if I can do nothing to change the situation, I have to live with it…and I should try to live the best I can.” Pedro told his family and quietly asked for “10 more years of quality life”, to be able to educate his children and to get his life in order. Pedro smiles and says, “Now I ask for 20 more years, and then I am going to ask for more years.”

Pedro has built his life after the diagnosis. He has built a beautiful home with his family with now three children, which is suitable for his condition, he has built a professional life in business that is going from strength to strength, has good friends, an active social life and, of course, he has sport. Initially, it was para-dressage that claimed Pedro’s attention as a form of therapy, and there was more to it than the physical benefits. When Pedro was on the horse, he felt ‘normal’, and no one realised that he was disabled. “I remember meeting one of these guys that I knew for a long time. So, we start to talk on top of our horses and, in the end, he saw my wheelchair and… ‘Say what?’ He wasn’t believing … that I was in a wheelchair. It was a good feeling.”

The two hours of physical maintenance Pedro does every day is hard but ensures that he maximises his physical readiness. He loves swimming, skiing, para-dressage and golf. Before his diagnosis, Pedro started to play at the Oporto Golf Club in the north of Portugal where his grandfather Eduardo Coquet was a member. Three generations, Eduardo, Pedro and his children, would occasionally play, but golf was no longer an option until, that is, when he found a machine called the para-golfer on the internet.
The ride-on buggy, with a lifting seat, allows players who otherwise cannot stand up to play golf from a standing position safely and securely. Perhaps he could return to golf once again? More research on the internet and eventually he found a similar vehicle that would open up a whole new world. Pedro took the plunge and started to relearn the game, “You’ve got new senses, I must learn everything again because this is different from the golf I played before. Our professional, Sergio Couto, helped me a lot in the beginning.”

Pedro now travels around Europe, playing tournaments and enjoying the friendly competition found on the EDGA Tour. “Life is good,” says Pedro, “Everybody has problems. Mine is this one. That’s okay, you have to say yes to the disease. And if you do that, sometimes we forget that we have it.”

At 28 years of age, Pedro could not have imagined the life that he now leads. Rarely does life play out precisely as we might have thought in our younger years. For some, it may be better, for others maybe our expectations haven’t been met, but, for almost everyone, it will be different. Pedro is living proof that our response to the inevitable ups and downs of life can be more important than the events themselves. Pedro accepts his disease and lives a fulfilling life with his family; it’s a life worth celebrating.

* Pedro’s story is one of more than 40 stories by EDGA, the organisation that helps people with disability thrive through the power of golf. See more at www.edgagolf.com