By Shane Scanlan
On May 25 CBD local Wendy Brooks is walking 30km for a good cause – impressive, but not totally extraordinary until you consider that, five years ago, she was wheelchair bound with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The dynamic managing director of a Collins St consulting firm says she regained her health through exercise and sunshine.
“For 15 years I needed a wheelchair or some other aid to help me walk,” she said. “But for the last five years I’ve had no symptoms.”
Ms Brooks said she took advantage of her unexplained respite from the neurological disease by undertaking “serious rehabilitation”.
“I walked my way back to being fit,” she said, adding that sunshine, swimming and yoga also played a role in her remarkable turnaround.
Wendy now aims to take 15,000 steps every day and, of course, living and working in the CBD means she can put away the car and only use it on weekend commutes to her beach house at Fairhaven.
Tackling the 30km Coastrek from Koonya Beach to Point Nepean was just another step in her road to recovery and new lease on life.
The trek raises funds for The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work to restore sight for some of the world’s poorest people – a cause which connects well with Wendy’s business interests.
Her company, Wendy Brooks and Partners, helps not-for-profit and charitable enterprises become financially sustainable and has worked with the The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Wendy and her husband Rod moved to the CBD about five years ago, downsizing from Port Melbourne property when their four children were off their hands.
“We just love the CBD. It’s so vibrant and so close to everything,” she said.
And, living on the 29th floor of her building, she has great views and a terrace garden.
The couple have enjoyed diverse careers. Wendy has been a lawyer, a teacher and a chamber violist in the past. Rod has been a vet, a software product manager and has come back out of retirement to be the general manager of Wendy’s business.
The business has doubled in size every year for the past four years and now employs 20 staff.
Wendy said being polar opposites on the Myers Briggs personality test ensured a successful relationship – at home as well as at work.
Her serious illness and subsequent recovery has given the Brooks family a heightened sense of the value of good health and appreciation of life. Eldest daughter Catherine has also been diagnosed with MS.
Wendy says being symptom free doesn’t necessarily mean she is cured. She said MS could return at any time.
Youngest of four, Andy, was only about 10 years old when Wendy was first struck down with MS.
“It really gave the whole family a sense of what it is like to be disabled,” she said. “But, you know, I only felt disabled when I struck a barrier.”
In a case of extreme irony, Wendy was asked to speak at the University of Melbourne about access and diversity but could not access the stage with her wheelchair.
“I sat at the back and everyone had to turn around to listen to me,” she said.
Now that she has a new lease on life, Wendy is making the most of every minute. You may see her walking around the city. She’s the one with the big grin on her face!