Introducing Lee Stammers
It is Lee’s beautiful self-portrait that we are using as our campaign image for ME Awareness Week 2018.
Lee has had M.E. for 20 years and strongly believes it is very important that people understand what the condition is all about.
Lee said, “I was a 19-year-old sports science student when I realised something was wrong with my body.
“Suddenly I couldn’t play sport any more.
“Overnight my muscles stopped working, I was cramping and unable to run or kick a football.
“I was then inundated with exhaustion, headaches, a heavy fog and a feeling of loss.
“It took three years for my diagnosis – and that was largely thanks to the determination and hard work of my wonderful mum. She never gave up and refused to let the medical world tell us that something wasn't wrong.
“I was told that I would not work for 3 years. But through my own inner strength and naivety I took myself back to work. Only part-time and only for a few hours a day. It gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to meet people.
“Continuing to ignore my symptoms, I tested my body further trying a full-time job. That lasted 7 months before my crashes became too severe. But, I still did not listen to my body.”
“I pushed it even further and went back to university, this time to study Physiotherapy. If I thought I was bad before, I soon realised that that the pressure, cognitive demands and unpredictability of university life were far too much for my system. I had to accept my frailties and my weaknesses (as I thought).
“Somehow my inner strength enabled me to achieve a first class degree but the damage was already done; I was reliant on pain relief and was having so many crashes that my life was effectively at a standstill.
“Did I then stop and listen to my body? Only after once again testing myself in full-time employment for a year, which resulted in both physical and mental collapse.
“Finally, enough was enough. I resigned from my job and started to prioritise myself, to accept my health as an actual disability, a severe condition that required respect.”
Listen to what your body is telling you
“I believe that those of us with M.E. have a strong inner drive to be active, to strive, to make plans and conquer ambitions. M.E. destroys this and leaves us often isolated and frustrated.
“If I could give any advice to those newly diagnosed with M.E. or those still testing themselves against it, it would be to listen to your body.
“It is telling you what it wants, it is not judging you or competing with you; it simply wants you to listen, to accept, and to start living a new life.”
In February this year, Lee dyed his hair BLUE to raise awareness of ME and fundraise for The ME Association.
He chose blue as it’s the internationally accepted colour of M.E. awareness.
The ME Association
Lee added, “This is such an important cause. The ME Association helps increase awareness of M.E., provides support and invests in desperately needed biomedical research.
“Despite all the negatives about this condition I would like other people to realise something:
“People with M.E are the strongest, bravest, most dedicated, empathetic, generous and hard-working people in the world!
“Please don't judge them for what you may not understand.”
Fundraising Manager, Helen Hyland, writes:
“Thank you, Lee, for leading the way in going BLUE for ME, and for putting into both words and images just how ME feels.
“And thank you too for spearheading our campaign to increase awareness of M.E. in employment and education.
“We’re doing all we can to support you and thousands of others like you – in the hope that we can make the world a better place for everyone who suffers from this truly devastating condition.”
If you would like to learn more about the ME Association and its vital work supporting people with M.E., and learn more about ME Awareness Week (7th – 14th May), please visit our website.
And if you would like to show your support for our work, please make a donation to our JustGiving campaign Go BLUE for ME 2018.
Lee adds, “If you could please help in even a small way, I would be truly grateful.”