A high-flying company director and mum to four has told of her desperate battle with a chronic fatigue illness.
Plymouth mum Anna Rutherford realised something was badly wrong as she played with her children at their home in Mannamead.
She collapsed to the floor and then spent the next year of her life in bed due to ME.
The woman who loved nothing more than a diary filled with work, social and domestic commitments suddenly became a shell of her former self, she told the Plymouth Herald.
"At first, we weren’t sure whether I had suffered a stroke – Johnny (my husband) said I looked like a 90-year-old sitting in a wheelchair," she said.
"It was the most awful experience – and that was just the beginning of it."
After a number of tests, doctors told Anna something she could never have prepared herself for – she had chronic ME.
In despair, Anna spent the next 12 months confined to her bed, unable to face the outside world for fear her weakened body would not be able to cope doing the things she used to do.
It was a truly dark time for her and for a long time Anna never thought she would be able to pull through as the chronic fatigue condition set in.
The ex-director of now defunct Camborne firm Enact Energy said: "My world changed at this point.
"I was pretty much in bed for a year, I wasn’t able to have a proper life.
"If someone had said to me to go and pick up the clothes off the floor, I couldn’t have done it.
"I couldn’t have any noise around me. Music, which I adored, I couldn’t listen to it. I couldn’t have on any of the lights.
"There I was, this high-flying company director, who couldn’t move and couldn’t even go to make a cup of tea anymore.
"I couldn’t look after my kids. Sometimes, I was so poorly, my two girls would come home and I couldn’t cook or stand up – they would get bread, cheese and fruit and they would feed everybody.
"No-body really knows what causes ME – but they think it might be down to stress. I had lost my mum before that happened and had four children close together.
"I was an old mum, so there was the stress of that. I had my fourth child at 39, in 2013."
Anna, now 45, has impressively turned things around and all thanks to the power of positive thinking.
She’s amazingly been able, through the help of specialists, to ‘re-programme’ her mind and soon her body, slowly but surely, followed suit.
"I wrote to a lady in North Devon who does this brain training, who teaches you how to change your neurological pathways," Anna explained.
"With ME, your body has ways of going into panic mode.
"A simple thing like a cold can make your body want to go to sleep.
"But this lady, she gets you to think; ‘I used to be able to walk five miles without the blink of an eye – I could do it before and I can do it again.’
"For me, I knew my happy place was wishing I could dance again.
"That was what I focused on, to stop myself from collapsing.
"I would think of that, visualise that and that’s what I started doing."
Anna’s cognitive treatment has changed her life in ways she could never have imagined.
Six months ago, she clubbed together with a small group of people – including a blind DJ – to launch ‘Jive Hive’.
The weekly dance group based at Derriford Centre for Health & Wellbeing in Plymouth gives people with ailments a new lease of life.
Sessions are also open for people who don’t have a condition to come along, have a dance and make new friends.
"It gives me focus, it’s something I aim for every week – not just in my mind but in my body," she said.
"I am not afraid to walk into rooms with people, I am now able to stand up and teach people how to dance.
"It gets the endorphins going."
Other changes to Anna’s life have also worked and she now swears by an entirely gluten-free diet.
She doesn’t eat chicken or wheat either.
Anna said she knows having ME will always be a battle – but she is determined to keep as healthy and positive as she can.
"I am still fighting it," she said.
"I have days when I come back from dancing and I am shattered. We have a lady who has fibromyalgia, and she says it’s the feel good factor you get for three hours."
Her message for others with ME is simply don’t give up, and don’t forget to stretch.
"There will always be days when you feel like you can’t do it – but you can," Anna said.
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