‘My life has completely changed, I try to explain how it feels, it’s like a past life really’
A former weightlifter has told how an illness left her unable to get out of bed.
Gemma Allen, from Earby, spends most of her day lying in darkness after being struck down with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
The long-term illness have many symptoms and some sufferers are unable even to watch TV or listen to music.
The 35-year-old used to be a weightlifter, but now struggles to walk a few steps unassisted as a result of the illness.
She said: “Rewind five years ago, I was a weightlifter, I trained six times a day for at least an hour a day. Fast forward now, I can barely walk six steps unaided at times.
“My life has completely changed, I try to explain how it feels, it’s like a past life really. Or a really vivid dream, you know at one time you could run, walk around shopping centres, take my son to the park but now, I’m house bound.”
Gemma admits that she struggles to keep up with son Jack, seven, and Evie, two.
The former quality assurance consultant also had to leave work six months ago due to the illness.
She is reliant on the help of her husband, Nathan, 38, and the use of an electric scooter on the rare occasions she does leave home.
ME causes extreme exhaustion, pain, brain fog, and a variety of other symptoms. Even going for a shower, or going to the toilet, can strike down a sufferer for days or even weeks.
Gemma added: “When I am unable to get out of bed, I have to call in help, usually from my mum or dad.
“My husband has had to use his holidays to take me to the hospitals and clinics.
“My heart sank when my son first said that his mum was disabled. I’m unable to take my babies to the park, to run around with them in the garden, taking them to see Santa.
“I just don’t have the energy and the pain is overwhelming.
“I absolutely hate using my stick and especially my electric scooter. I just feel so helpless, vulnerable and afraid of being stranded.”
Gemma began experiencing symptoms just months after the birth of her second child, Evie.
She said: “We are not sure whether a virus was to blame or a result of my second delivery, but everything started getting worse around six month after having her.
“I deteriorated quickly over the following 18 months.
“It first was the waking up in agony unable to move because of the crippling cramps, I found it extremely painful to pick her up and one of the most hurtful things is that I can’t give my daughter a bath, like I loved to do my son as a baby…
“… After months of tests, MRIs, blood tests, numerous visits to the doctors each time in tears at home because it just felt I wasn’t being believed. I was diagnosed with ME, Fibromyalgia and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.”
Gemma said it was around 18 months after she first experienced the symptoms before she was diagnosed.
Describing how her life has been affected, she said: “It has been completely turned around, It’s taken my health, my work, my abilities, my strength, my courage, my confidence completely away.
“I feel like pre-ME was just a vivid dream, and now I’m stuck in this horrendous nightmare.”
Gemma hopes that sharing her story will raise awareness of ME, as she had never heard of the illness before her diagnosis.
Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, said: “There are thousands of people in the UK with severe ME, which is a truly devastating disease.
“The nature of the illness means they are hidden away behind closed curtains and desperate not to be forgotten about.
“We urgently need more funding for research into treatments for ME so people like Gemma can have hope of reclaiming their lives.”
The ME Association
Please support our vital work
We are a national charity working hard to make the UK a better place for people whose lives have been devastated by an often-misunderstood neurological disease.
If you would like to support our efforts and ensure we are able to inform, support, advocate and invest in biomedical research, then please donate today.
Just click the image opposite or visit our JustGiving page for one-off donations or to establish a regular payment. You can even establish your own fundraising event.
ME Association Registered Charity Number 801279