Trai (right) and her travelling companion Chris Gates. Both have ME.
BBC Look North weathergirl Trai Anfield is spending the first six months of 2009 travelling round the word to raise awareness of ME. In the process, she is raising money for ME research.
Before she left – first stop Sri Lanka, where she is now – she left this message on the BBC website.
What do cuddling a koala, swimming with dolphins and wallowing in mud pools have to do with a weather presenter and an illness called ME?
The connection is a journey round the world with a difference!
I have ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and although I may seem fine when you see me on Look North or hear me on Radio Newcastle, it is a hidden illness that I’ve had for 17 years.
I spent several of those years registered disabled and found it difficult to look after myself or get around, and even now I sometimes still struggle with ill health.
That’s why I’ve decided to take six months away from work and your screens and radios.
Friends have inspired me to do more than just take a holiday, so I’m also aiming to ‘do something worthwhile’ and raise awareness of ME and funds for research into its causes.
My plan is to journey around the globe in the most healing and restorative ways I can think of, to highlight the fact that people with ME have to do things differently.
A friend Christina Gates, who also has ME, will travel with me, and together we will take on seven relaxing wonders of the world.
Having ME means people like Chris and I have to approach life a little differently, so although we’d love to trek, bungee jump, white water raft and skydive our way round the globe, as many of our friends have, we will need to pace ourselves and instead experience more gentle challenges in the form of our seven relaxing wonders.
Each of our wonders, though relatively restful, will bring a particular challenge for us with ME, and together they represent the various stages that ME sufferers go through on their own journeys from illness back to physical and emotional wellbeing.
Our first relaxing wonder is a course of ayurvedic healing in Sri Lanka. This challenge represents the most important step anyone with ME can take: acknowledging our illness, stopping the backward slide of health and making it our number one priority to get better.
Our aim in Sri Lanka is to get well enough to complete the rest of the trip…no pressure!
Cuddling a koala
Next we’ll wallow in the restorative mineral mud pools of New Zealand. This relaxing wonder represents that ‘stuck in the mud’ feeling we’ve all had when nothing, no matter how hard we try, seems to improve our health.
Chris is sure that a cuddle with a koala will cure all our stresses, so we’re on the hunt for a hug down under! This Australian challenge represents the TLC we all need along the way.
Patagonia is next and represents the isolation many ME sufferers experience. The glaciers will be quite a challenge – those of us with ME can find it difficult to regulate our body temperatures and as it’ll be winter in Patagonia it could be -25C!
While we’re in Chile we go straight from one extreme to another – surfacing from the frozen Patagonian winter will be a real challenge as we head straight up to the driest place on Earth – the Atacama desert.
Here are some of the planet’s clearest skies and we plan to lie down a lot, looking up at the stars and dreaming of life still to come.
This challenge represents the hopes and aspirations that are so important to retain when you have ME and other life-changing illnesses.
Anyone who’s trekked to Machu Picchu in Peru will tell you it’s not at all restful or relaxing – which is why we’re not doing it!
Instead we’ll take the train. We just couldn’t miss out on what really was a wonder of the ancient world, so this challenge represents the need to slow down and approach things in different ways when you’re ill.
Swimming with dolphins
And what could be a more uplifting end to our odyssey than swimming with dolphins?
They represent the exuberance of making progress and feeling even a little bit better.
Some folks think that swimming with dolphins can actually cure medical conditions and we are more than happy to test the hypothesis.
ME/CFS is a complex and still very misunderstood illness which has devastating effects on many of the body’s systems, in particular the nervous and immune systems. There is no ‘cure’ at present.
I am delighted to be able to support the work of our chosen charity ME North East, of which I am patron.
The charity supports sufferers of ME and their carers in our region, including both Chris and I, and funds research which will benefit people with ME around the world.
Of course I am lucky that I am still well enough to even contemplate a journey like this, but I haven’t always been this fortunate.
You can find more information about ME and my story, as well as sponsor us and keep up to date with our progress on our website:
So when people ask "Do you really want me to sponsor you to relax?" I smile – the idea does take a little getting used to, but our lives have been turned upside down by ME and this whole journey is about accepting the need to do things just that little bit differently!
To look at Trai and Chris’s website, click HERE.