‘She wins all the races’- A tragicomedy with Biscuits

Published Date
Dr Sheonad Laidlaw and her family

A review on the hit show ‘She wins all the race’.


It’s the 1970s and Belinda is a fun loving, living life to the full little girl. She has two brothers: Older and Younger. They are somehow different. They don’t walk properly. There are family secrets hidden in a drawer, “the drawer she must never open”. One day she opens the drawer and her world is blown apart. Duchenne muscular dystrophy enters her life.

What can she do to save her brothers?  She needs help…A microscopic Wonderwoman travels through the body of Younger to the left calf muscle, but the muscle caves in around her. Duchenne is not something that can be battled against; but instead something is missing. She dons her supersleuth hat and meets the elusive Dystrophin in a seedy Becker Bar: there is hope in research – a treatment perhaps and Science shines bright.

As time passes the reality of the disease must be faced. Her brothers become wheelchair dependent, their muscles weaken until they can no longer keep their eyes open. The family becomes four… and then three as they say goodbye.

She Wins all the Races is a quirky tragicomedy with biscuits – Tunnock Teacakes and all! – and a modicum of Abba. It tells the story of a little girl who has two brothers living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. You understand the loss the family feels, the ever present grief and sorrow, following their diagnosis. You see Belinda, desperate to be seen by her parents ever focused on the needs of her brothers. You feel the despair as they wrangle with their own spirituality, Jesus ever present in the room. You imagine everyone living life to the full, wheelchairs racing in the park, Match of the Day on a Saturday night.

Shelley O’Brien tells her real life story openly and honestly. The show is challenging: emotions run close to the surface; the “beast in the labyrinth” feels ever present in the room; the physical deterioration evident in the graceful movements that she makes; the loss of her brothers acutely palpable as the balloons floating high are carefully packed away. Music plays quietly in the background. Life carries on; bittersweet perhaps but it carries on:

“Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I posses, I thank the Lord I’ve been blessed, with more than my share of happiness”

There are tears falling silently down my face as Shelley takes her final bow and I am in awe of her strength and courage. Yes, She Wins All the Races is challenging, but educational and, for me, cathartic too. There is courage and resilience abundant throughout, but in the end what you are left with is love, the love that binds this family together throughout their journey with Duchenne. The love that encouraged Shelley to tell her story. This same love carries many families through each day as they live with neuromuscular disease and that is a wonderful and powerful force.

Shelley O’Brien is one woman on a mission, spreading awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy across the UK. If only Wonderwoman could really help in the fight against this muscle-wasting condition…

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