I am Elaine and had always led a very healthy lifestyle enjoying horse riding, dance, keep fit, swimming and walking but a day before my 30th birthday life was about to change forever. I was expecting my 3rd child and after 38 hours in labour my baby daughter was born sleeping. Back in the early 1990’s still birth was not spoken about which meant I received no support from family or professionals. Through internal grief and stress, I had my first mild stroke 6 months later. I tried very hard to ignore the blame I felt over not bringing a healthy baby into the world and tried to get my life back on track returning to work and looking after my 2 small children.
Unfortunately, my health continued to deteriorate and two years later had a further stroke leaving me at the time with paralysis down my left side and having to learn to walk again. After intense physio, I went home to recover and could return to work on reduced hours. Unfortunately, my health continued to plague me, and I started to get intense chest pains along with breathing difficulties. One day it all came to a head and while cashing up at work I collapsed with a suspected heart attack which was incredibly scary. I spent a month in hospital and undergoing numerous tests and examinations I was diagnosed with cardiac syndrome X. For me getting a diagnosis meant I knew what I was dealing with and had no hidden surprises!
Thinking this was all I had to live with I was so wrong and struggled with overwhelming fatigue and chronic pain throughout my body. I had now lost all my confidence, self-worth, fiends didn’t want to know, and the final massive shock was the end of my marriage. Alone in the world with my two children on reduced hours and fighting to get any financial support life had hit rock bottom. Thinking I was truly imagining all these debilitating symptoms and ending back in hospital I was finally diagnosed with ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I had to have complete bed rest for 7 months and look at totally changing the way I lived my life and my career was now in tatters.
Something had to be done and fast, as I felt I was about to lose my home, my children and my job. My GP was unable to give me the answers I craved, and the offer of anti-depressants were not the answer for me as I felt I wanted to have control back in my life and not taken away further. I didn’t want to be reliant on other people for the rest of my life, so I looked at ways to self-manage my own mental and physical health. In 2003 I attended a self-management course looking at ways to use tools we have within us to make changes for the better. To walk into a room full of people who were describing exactly what I felt like and not judging me or telling me I was lazy and need to “get a life” was empowering. For the very first time in many years I felt understood and not a burden! This was MY new beginning and I now feel very passionate that people should have this opportunity to self-manage their own conditions.
I have always remained proactive around my health and although some days are very difficult due to the overwhelming fatigue and pain I continue to work and run a house on my own. I went from volunteering as a self-management tutor to realising my dream of becoming the Manger of the service in Cornwall’s NHS.
Step Into MY Shoes came about because of two inspirational people Jacqueline Heather and Kath Betts who I met through the self-management courses we were delivering. We realised we all had the same dream and that was to share our own journeys and empower other people to build up confidence and discover there is life after diagnosis.
As three friends and directors of the not-for-profit company we have a wide range of skills and life experience, I am passionate about the work we do and honoured to work alongside two incredible ladies.
“You have to believe to achieve your goals….”