Headmaster who lost leg is playing tennis

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A local school principal who lost his leg just over a year ago says he has been inspired by a local tennis coach, and he wants others to get involved too.

David Radcliffe is the principal of Harpur’s Hill Primary School.

Sitting in his office last Wednesday morning, the father of four was happy to talk about the cancer that forced him to have his leg amputated, and admitted that he has a real love for life again, particularly sport.

David, who is the captain of Gracehill Golf Club, first found out he had cancer back in 1996, a very rare form of Sarcoma called Ewings Sarcoma. David had a tumour removed and returned to school life. However, in June 2013, the cancer struck again, in the same place at the top of his left leg, something that surgeons said was very rare.

“It was in the shower one morning I noticed the firmness again in my leg. I knew what it was straight away,” he told.

After rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, David was forced to have his full leg amputated to ensure that the cancer could not return.

“It was a difficult decision. I think my wife and kids took it a bit harder than I did, but I just had a feeling that this would happen.

““I had watched a film, ‘Reach for the Sky’, a 1956 British biographical film about aviator Douglas Bader, and I saw how he was able to get on with life with both legs amputated, so I guessed that I could too.”

On June 1, 2015, David set himself two goals - to stand up on his prosthetic leg and speak to the children at prize day, and to hit a golf ball.

The determined principal did both that month, although he admitted that he didn’t hit the golf ball very straight!

David said he found it very tough having his independence taken away, having to rely on people to drive him places was tough, but one year on and the popular principal has just finished his first full year back at school since his operation.

“The children here are great, they talk about my robotic leg, and they show a lot of respect for someone in my position. They open doors for me, help me in the canteen, they just do it, I don’t ask, they just respect people,” he said.

A family day out at Causeway Community Tennis Club’s diversity day gave David another goal - to play tennis with his children.

“I watched the demonstration by the wheelchair team and then I had a go myself, it was great, it was another game that we as a family could play.

“I then travelled to Belfast with Paul Logan, the coach, and took part in an open session, along with other amputees. There I was fitted with a special sports wheelchair which the Club now have for anyone who is interested. Paul and the Club have really inspired me.

I just hope that someday I go down and someone else is using the chair - that’s what it is all about, taking away that feeling of being different, having self worth and I thank the club for their support.”