Let me introduce myself, I am Kath I am in my late 50s and like many people I have several health conditions which impact my daily life. These include some which were kindly passed down from my parents and some of my own doing! The asthma, arthritis and diabetes are from my family however the spinal damage is due to a fall on metal edged stairs and degeneration caused by age. Having slipped, the base of my spine was fractured and a further fall broke a piece off a vertebra and caused nerve damage resulting in partial paralysis of one leg. Surgery carried out to remove damaged discs, release trapped nerves and to fuse the vertebra using metal rods has led to a much-improved quality of life.
Prior to my surgery I was in the depths of despair after losing job due through being off sick. The constant pain, mobility issues and challenges of everyday life seemed to spell the end of my teaching career and of course my income. Losing those and the fear of losing the roof over my head also meant that I felt that I not only lost my purpose in life but also my identity.
These harsh realities made me realise that there was no simple solution, no magic potion or pill that would put things right and return things to how they were before. Mounting frustration at the time everything took whilst I was in constant pain, whether I was moving around or lying still, there was no escape. Added to the daily struggles was the constant battle trying to claim any income and disability benefits such as DLA etc. It was a minefield and I felt completely alone, that, for me was a turning point.
I decided that I must do something and was trawling organisations in Plymouth that may be able to offer support when I came across DIAC (Disability Information and Advice Centre). They supported me with my appeal for DLA and I also found out about a self-management program that was run within the same building. I attended the course and it is hard to put into words the impact that it had on my life. To walk into a room and be the same as everyone else and not “the odd one out; to be with people who understood the daily struggle to just function and look after yourself, to not be judged as lazy or making the illness up, to be with others who were finding alternative ways to do daily tasks, to be with others who dared to believe that their dreams had not gone for ever.
The simple skills that I was introduced to made me calmly examine the daily problems that I faced and to look hard at my priorities. If I really wanted/needed to do something, then how could I go about achieving that? Accepting that things are not how they were before and probably never will be again did allow me to move forward rather than to be stuck in a place of loss and frustration. These skills I have now taken into all aspects of my life, there is no “one size fits all” solution so it is a question of selecting the right tools for the situation. Some of the people that I met on the initial course I am still in contact with several years later, some will be friends for life.
Step Into MY Shoes came about because of two inspirational people Jacqualine Heather and Elaine Curno. They had a dream and I was honoured and delighted to be asked to join their venture and to help others develop skills which would enable them to find their own way forward. It is all about “giving back”, coming from a point of view and a level of understanding that is often not there with those who are not “In MY Shoes”.
As three friends and directors of the not-for-profit company we have a wide range of skills and life experience, I am the geek of the group, gadget mad, oh and my computer skills come in handy!
I thank you for joining us on this journey and hope that your experience is as positive and rewarding as mine was.
“Believe you can and you are half way there” – Theodore Roosevelt