lady smiling by the water Location: Kennet & Avon Canal

Meet Stephanie

"I feel empowered! In the past I used to say that I had to get on with living my life around the pain, now I say I'm living my life, and I happen to have pain. I'm going to France next week, so I'm doing some holiday shopping here today and I've just stopped here to look at the water for a moment's peace away from the crowds fighting over the sales racks!

I haven't always used a wheelchair – it started 5 years ago, when I was 26. I'd gone out for the evening to try and cheer myself up after finding out my ex-boyfriend had just got married. I was wearing quite high heels and, ridiculously, I fell over on a step. I was rushed to A&E, but after months of x-rays, scans and blood tests the doctors couldn't diagnose anything specific, and told me I had a condition known as CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome. I was offered a course of physiotherapy, and I was walking well with a stick, but other issues started to affect me because of the muscles I was using. So whenever I needed to travel long distances, I started using a wheelchair.  

At that time I had so many questions that I couldn't possibly have answers for - and I drove myself a bit insane thinking about them. I knew there were things I couldn't predict and I would have to take each day as it comes even though that was difficult while I was fighting depression. Then, thankfully, I started having counselling and that really helped me.

Beforehand, I'd felt people were pushing me to do things - it’s such a difficult condition for people to understand - whereas my counselling is letting me take control of helping my body for myself. I don't have to feel awful that I'm letting people down anymore, and I feel stronger for it. I’ve been skydiving, and last week went on a helicopter ride – I’m not letting it stop me! That's why I feel empowered just staring at the water and watching the boats today. I'm taking control by managing the condition myself, and enjoying my life again. So I'm going to stay here for as long as I like, until I decide to head off back into the shopping mall!"

Stephanie, Reading, Kennet & Avon Canal