Living with ME
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The most common of which is extreme tiredness. But it can be hard to diagnose. I spoke with sufferer Leanne Dempsey about how she is raising awareness, writes Tracy Hargreaves
Twenty-nine Preston born Leanne has suffered from CFS (or ME) since she was 17. She spent over three years back and forth to her GP before she was finally diagnosed with the condition.
“The main symptom is feeling extremely tired and generally unwell,” says Leanne, “but you can also suffer from sleep problems, muscle or joint pain, flu like symptoms, problems remembering and feeling dizzy or sick, and because the severity of symptoms can vary from day to day and from person to person, it’s extremely difficult to diagnose as symptoms can be similar to other illnesses. It’s basically a condition or breakdown of the nervous system. You’re out of balance and your body isn’t in a relaxed state. There is currently no cure and no medication. Mine started off quite mild but gradually became worse and it turned my life upside down. I wasn’t able to continue with my education or work.”
ME can be triggered by a number of factors, from mental health problems, viral infections, hormone imbalance to bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Chronic fatigue syndrome has actually been around for more than 150 years. It is believed that Florence Nightingale suffered from it, due to her tireless work.
Leanne is of the belief that you can get better from everything and through her positivity and finding what works for her, she now only suffers occasionally.
She is currently a mature student studying business and marketing at UCLan. She chose the university due to its reputation for welfare and wellbeing and being flexible around lifestyle issues. She has recently set up a women’s networking group called Wonderful Women Preston, a non-profit organisation on a mission to increase social networks and empowerment for women in Preston, with the aim to improve social health and social opportunity. “I wanted to reduce the barriers that women face and there was a gap for women who wanted to try new things but didn’t have the confidence to go alone. It’s only been going since last December, but the group is growing all the time. I started organising events in August with the first one a walk locally around Haslam Park in Preston.”
Her long-term goal is to have volunteers run the groups and decide what events to put on. But for now, it’s an achievement that Leanne is back studying and planning things for the future.
The next walk is on Saturday 19th October in Longton, find out more on: wonderfulwomen.org.uk