‘It’s been a grieving process’ – Northumberland woman determined not to let condition ruin her life | 16 January 2020

January 16, 2020

The ChronicleLive, Rachael Nichol, 15th January 2020

Kate Stanforth's childhood dream of becoming a professional dancer was crushed due to a chronic condition

From a young age, Kate Stanforth had a passion for dance. And by the age of eight, she decided she wanted to be a professional ballerina.

After training seven hours a day, Kate was on track to fulfilling her childhood dream. But one morning aged 14, her world was turned upside down.

Kate, from Stocksfield, became extremely poorly, could barely move and had no idea what was happening to her.

Looking back on the traumatic experience, the 24-year-old said: “It was horrific, the worst thing you can imagine but at the time I didn't feel anything because I was so ill.

“I could barely move and as I started to deteriorate I became paralysed, ended up bed-bound and my mum had to spoon feed me. I couldn't do anything for myself.”

After a year of suffering and not knowing what was going on, Kate, was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Heartbroken Kate had to leave the world of dance behind and stop attending school as she struggled to get out of bed.

Five years later Kate was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Ehlers-danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs.

Kate added: “I was hit with the bombshell that I was going to be ill for life.

“The whole process of being a dancer to now has been a massive grieving process for me. I'm never going to be able to wake up and say I'm ok with this.

“I've had the most amazing opportunities and I absolutely love what I'm doing. But part of me is still completely grieving that I wanted to be a dancer and to have a life when I'm not in pain or living with these conditions.”

After building her strength up, Kate finished her dance teaching exams and now fulfils her passion by teaching dance from her wheelchair to children at JLJ Studios in Ryton.

“Prove myself as a teacher coming in a wheelchair is so hard,” she said. “I found that no one wanted to hired me. I do a lot of my teaching verbally instruct and can show small movements.”

Not letting her chronic conditions get in her way, Kate signed with Zebedee in April, which is a specialist modelling agency.

After bagging a range of amazing opportunities from Sainsburys' ‘Work It' Campaign 2019 to Sea Life Centre Worldwide Promotion Stills 2019, Kate still feels like there is prejudice around disabilities in the industry.

“I still feel like there's ignorant people towards disability and they are not sure how to approach people, it is a weird one.

“The need for disabled models has definitely increased since I started but I like brands who cast models for their talents rather than just for their disability.

“I was chosen to go to Miami for my most recent campaign for my dancing and Sainsbury's picked me through charity work not just because I’m disabled.”

Kate doesn't stop there. She runs her own blog to help spread awareness of accessibility in Newcastle and to connect with people online who are going through the same thing.

And after successfully organising a Christmas party for people with chronic illnesses in Tyneside Cinema, Kate is hoping to host more events in the future. To read more about her inspirational work, visit her blog at https://www.katestanforth.com/

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