A YOUNG ME sufferer from Thornbury is hoping to raise awareness of her debilitating condition.
Helen Wood, 24, still lives at home and has not been able to complete her education or work due to her illness.
It is not known what causes myalgic encephalomyelitis – sometimes known as chronic fatigue syndrome – but the condition can last for years and there is no known cure.
Helen was diagnosed back in 2005, aged 14. Since then her mother Liz has taken on the role of her full-time carer and the two have adjusted to their new way of life.
Helen told the Gazette that she wanted more people to understand how her debilitating, but often hidden, illness affected her on a day-to-day basis.
She said: “I go out most mornings in Thornbury with my mum and we park on double yellow lines as I have a Blue Badge.
“We do get a lot of funny looks from people. The majority of people may think I look fine, but that is far from the truth. How I look and how I feel are two different things.”
Helen also has glandular fever, an under-active thyroid and depression.
While ME affects around 250,000 people in the UK, it remains difficult to diagnose and treat.
Symptoms include persistent and extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, swollen glands, concentration and short-term memory problems, sleep difficulties, dizziness and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
Helen said the fatigue was particularly challenging.
"I still feel very tired which I really hate," she said. "Every time I go to The Mall I always use an electric wheelchair. I wish I didn’t have to use one, but I have no choice.
"I love going shopping which is one of the things that keeps me going, but if I walked in every shop that I wanted to go in I would collapse by the end of it.
"My legs hate the walking and how ever little walking I do I still suffer when I get home."
ME Awareness Week runs from Monday, May 12 to Sunday, May 18 and the Woods are doing their all to raise awareness of the illness.
The regular ME Association fundraisers will be collecting money for the charity at a stall opposite Carluccio’s at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway on Saturday, May 17 from 10.30am to 5pm.
For more information visit www.meassociation.org.uk