***SPONSORED BY CARTERS ADVOCATES AND ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET!***
***MANY THANKS TO THE VILLA FOR THE BUCKET COLLECTION***
In October 2016, I founded Without Wings, the Manx Autoimmune Arthritis Trust. Its vision was clear: to raise awareness of these often misunderstood and notoriously difficult to control illnesses, (can strike anyone of any age, currently cited as progressive and incurable, affect many systems in the body, etc etc.,) and to provide much needed access to information and compassionate funding when people living with these illnesses are most 'without wings,' or their physical or emotional freedom.
Since then, Without Wing's amazing team have worked hard to achieve our dream. In doing so we now have a fabulously informative website (ww.withoutwings.co.uk), and a fully fledged, easy access, bespoke counselling initiative (via the fantastic Lisa Lowe Centre). The money raised so far has also enabled us to provide funding for physical aids, physical rehabilitation programmes and complementary health support, and to also underwrite our vibrant and successful public information and fundraising events! Through all this we have learnt that raising funds is only a fraction of the work of running a charity. The rest is the relentless ensuring that everything runs smoothly, our services are promoted, and the funds are used as efficiently and usefully as possible, whilst reaching the maximum amount of people... All of which the team have done so well, we are now in desperate need of MORE FUNDS!
I have therefore decided it is about time I set my own challenge!
I was struck by a particularly aggressive onset of seronegative arthritis in the Summer of 2013, and have the illness in virtually every joint in my body, including my spine. The last five years have not been easy. Initially, even with triple DMARD plus steroid therapy, I was still classed as being seriously ill, but luckily, in May 2014, I discovered a strict low fat, plant based programme called the Paddison Programme for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Within 7 weeks of embarking on this I swam round Peel castle - 7 weeks previously I had been barely able to move most of my body without extreme pain - let alone swim! Spurred on by such success, I threw myself into natural healing. Gradually, over the next 20+ months I found myself in the position of being able to slowly both lower my meds (with agreement and careful monitoring from my health care provider), and build back my ability to walk. I did so well in fact, that in September 2015 - on approximately half my initial medication and whilst classed as being in 'remission', I was able to complete the End2End mountain bike challenge... Then everything went wrong.
To say the 18 months + that followed were tough would be an understatement. Pain and immobility aside, the loss - once again, of my physical freedom was devastating and a huge stress on my family and myself. I had literally no one to turn to. It was during this time that I decided to set up the charity. My initial vision was to raise awareness specifically of autoimmune arthritis - an umbrella term for a number of autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid, psoriatic, juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus etc) which seriously affect, amongst other systems in the body, the joints, and therefore, mobility. In addition to this, I wanted to provide enough information and compassionate funding to ensure other sufferers could have fast access to everything that would have helped me. Over time the charity has grown its own wings so to speak. I hope that through our work we have created something that can enable people to not only find support, but to actually find their own path to 'thriving not just surviving' with an autoimmune arthritis diagnosis.
Thankfully, since the Summer of 2017, my health has been back on the up. I am still fully committed to the Paddison Programme, on the lowest level of meds yet, and although the illness has 'taken its toll,' so to speak, I can, and do, hike most days...
Hence the challenge - and believe me - it will be a challenge! Along with my two sons and with my husband and youngest 'in the wings' offering support :) I am planning to scale the summits of the three peaks in the Yorkshire Dales: Ingleborough, Pen-y-gent and Whernside. We are going to attempt to do this in one go, but realistically, because of on going issues with my body, we are giving ourselves three days to complete the challenge.
Any donation at all will be gratefully received. All money raised from this will go directly towards paying off the remainder of this year's counselling initiative. Donating money for the charity not only safeguards this initiative, but also means we can continue to say 'yes' when people approach us looking for other support. It also provides us with the means to continue to underwrite our many and varied awareness, educational and fundraising events - that we always try to ensure are vibrant, financially accessible, and open to the public.
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