Nancy Harris - Adjusting to Life with A Disability

As part of Disability Pride Month this July, we are thrilled to have been able to chat with Nancy Harris. Nancy is an incredible woman with a phenomenal outlook on life, her experience and her future, check it out:

Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I'm 56yr old, a mum of two grown-up children, a self-employed counsellor, an Advocate for children with autism, a model and a hard-of-hearing leg amputee living in Bedfordshire.

I wear a hearing aid and prosthetic leg after 2 unfortunate accidents, one on a ski slope where I fractured my skull and lost my hearing and the other on a trampoline where I broke my leg and ultimately had it amputated above the knee.

Nancy Harris Modelling in Vogue

How long have you been living with a disability, and how has it affected your daily life, both physically and mentally?

I've been managing my hearing loss since I was 24 but only recently started wearing a hearing aid as up until then, I sadly thought I could not be helped. On the other hand, I lost my leg aged 30 and so have been living as an amputee for over 25 years.

My life post amputation was hard, becoming disabled tested me to the limit.  From feeling lost in the darkest of places to being unable to use my prosthetic leg twice when pregnant and hiding my wheelchair in the loft refusing to accept my limitations, I've lived through it all. I even spent the first two years of my son's life on the floor with him, too afraid to wear my leg unless I fell and too scared to carry him in case I tripped.

Nancy Harris Models with Gold Glitter Cool Crutches

Looking back, after my amputation I went through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually, acceptance. These stages are part of the framework that helped me to accept the loss of not only my leg but my job (I was a PE/Dance teacher), identity, role, femininity and confidence.

It has been an incredibly hard road to navigate but I can honestly say I'm happier now than ever and it is genuinely because of my amputation.  Twenty six years on, I can reflect and use my experience to fully appreciate all that I can still do.

Are there any things you've found that have helped support you or impacted your mental health positively when it comes to living with a disability?

The best thing I did was get therapy. I retrained to become a counsellor, so it was part of my training, but that insight allowed me to explore my demons and make peace with the world for what's happened to me. I didn't have any amputee peer support groups, but I now know these are fantastic.  To be able to share anxieties as well as triumphs truly is key to accepting disability and the more this can be encouraged the better!  Retraining as a counsellor has meant I've been able to help so many who are struggling to come to terms with their disability which in turn has helped me regain confidence too.

 Nancy Models with Gold Glitter Crutches

What advice would you give to someone facing a life-changing diagnosis or injury?

Don't face it alone. Get as extensive a support network as you can and try some counselling. You can't speak to loved ones or friends about some things. There are also lots of online support groups. I always remembered I hadn't lost my life, just my leg, so give yourself time to grieve for the old you and be patient in finding out what the new you can still do.

Nancy Rocks Rainbow Cool Crutches

What keeps you motivated?

My children keep me motivated the most because I've always taught and shown them that whatever life throws at you, you carry on and find a way, even if that is different from everyone else.

If you could change one thing to improve the lives of disabled people, what would it be?

That difference was embraced. Disability was normalised so there wasn't a tick box to meet compliance. By increasing our visibility and normalising disabled people, this may happen one day where we're all seen as equal.

Nancy Harris Models on Rainbow Cool Crutches

When did you start using Cool Crutches and why?

Summer 2022 - I'd seen so many posts on Instagram and was intrigued to see if they were better than my NHS crutches, safe to say YES THEY ARE.  They have given me the confidence to walk upright and look ahead, rather than constantly looking at the ground to check where I've placed them.  Also, they don't make creaking noises, they have become part of my style, reflecting my personality rather than looking like a medical appendage.

How do businesses like Cool Crutches help the disabled community?

They allows us to have fun with our disabilities. It brings us together and says there is someone here who wants to improve your everyday life because they care about your well-being enough to create something that will really help you. Cool Crutches bring the disabled community out of the shadows.

Nancy Harris Wears Black Cool Crutches

What would be the theme tune to your life?

Don't Stop Me Now‚ by Queen

Who would it be if you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world, dead or alive?

I'd invite Andy Murray as I've been following his career since he first began, Victoria Wood & Julie Walters for laughs, Tanni Grey-Thompson & Liz Carr as I have massive admiration of them both and Abba for their sensational catalogue of music.

What's the best advice you've been given?

Be yourself. I never save clothes for “best” because every day is best, so I wear what I want, when I want. Take a chance, make a choice and create change.

Along with advocating for women with disabilities, Nancy often documents all the exciting things she gets up to over on her Instagram page. You can follow her here.

A huge thank you to Nancy for taking the time to chat to us, an honest and uplifting story we hope you enjoyed!  To read more interviews, why not check out:

Caprice Kwai: Living With Osteoarthritis and Thriving
Nina Tame: Embracing Disability and Shedding Shame
Laura-Marie Armstrong: Why Choosing Amputation Gave Me a New Lease of Life

 Or to shop our full range of crutches, as modelled so beautifully by Nancy, click here.

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