Tag Archives: fund raising

Beating the Blues

Today is Blue Monday, the day predicted to be the gloomiest day of the year due to bad weather, the stark reality of our Christmas over-indulgence now affecting our dwindling bank accounts, the post-Christmas buzz that has completely disappeared from the horizon and our well-meant resolutions that are proving far harder to keep than we ever imagined. There are some New Year resolutions that you know will be difficult to keep beyond the first few days – abstinence springs instantly to mind – and then there are those that will never, could never be a challenge, but rather are an absolute pleasure to complete. Last year gave our family 2 amazing opportunities, experiences that were so life-changing, so extraordinary for both children and so liberating for us all that I knew that one resolution that I would not fail to meet was to write a post to not only recapture what are amongst my most favourite memories of 2016, but to also encourage others to get involved with what is a truly inspirational organisation.

9a78a65173e2885ea3a8c8b9d3ccd1acThanks to the amazing charity, Over The Wall, last year both G and M were able to escape from the reality that is their life at home coping with chronic illness and find a world where nothing could hold them back or stop them from achieving what might have previously seemed to have been impossible. G discovered a group of friends who could understand completely what life can be like when you have a sibling with serious health issues, but who got to know the unique, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited and passionate girl she can be in her own right and not simply as “M’s big sister“. Her confidence grew as she responded to the love, focus and encouragement that was given to her throughout her week away and she found a new and irreplaceable identity as a valuable member of last year’s Purple Girls at the South Siblings camp. Likewise, just a few months later, M was able to experience, for the first time ever, a week away from family, where he got to be as carefree a child as his school-mates are and could try out a whole host of new activities, confident and safe in the knowledge that his medical needs were being well-managed by the volunteer team surrounding him and he just needed to concentrate on having fun. Their time away from home taught them both that there is more to them than EGID and food allergies: Over The Wall truly gave my children wings to help them soar.

So, why write once again about the extraordinary adventure that is Over The Wall? Well, with a New Year comes new opportunities and you don’t have to have a child living with a chronic illness to be able to become involved with this organisation:

  • Application forms are currently open for places on the 2017 camps and be it the Siblings, Health Challenges or Family camp that meets your needs, now is the time to register your interest and find out if you can secure a place. Both children are glad to know that their forms have been completed and sent off, and it’s just a case of waiting to see if they’re back to the camp bubble this year
  • These camps depend heavily on the huge amount of time given to them by their team of dedicated volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering your time and helping make a difference to young people impacted by health problems, volunteer applications are also now open. The medical team who willingly give their time are unquestionably invaluable, but whatever your skills, know that your presence will undoubtedly make a difference to the children that are there
  • OTW offer these camps free to those families who attend and to be able to keep doing what they do and successfully reach out to even more young people, they need your help in raising funds. As a family we decided to focus our fundraising efforts last year on OTW and will continue to do so for 2017. Thank you so much if you helped us make a difference in 2016. Cake sales, sky-diving, shaving your head or running a marathon – whatever your interest, please consider supporting this charity by raising sponsorship or making a donation

And just in case you needed a reason to support and spread the news about Over The Wall, here’s a few photos that capture the magic that transformed the lives of G and M in unimaginable ways in 2016.

And the money kept rolling in…

Every year when National Eosinophil Awareness Week rolls around, we start thinking about how we’re going to raise more awareness about EGID, particularly in the public eye. During that first year, our focus was all about our awareness as a family and understanding more about how his diagnosis with this rare condition was impacting on M’s everyday life. As time has passed, we’ve looked for different ways to spread the word, reaching out into the wider community and have found that our efforts have naturally evolved to encompass an element of fundraising as well. Whilst the focus of NEAW is rightly about otwmaking sure more people know about this condition and what it means to be living with it, and donations of time are as valuable, if not more so than those of money, we know that any money we can raise will make a difference to the charities we choose to support.

This year we wanted to show our appreciation for the amazing work done by Over The Wall in running camps for children with serious health challenges, their siblings and their families. The truly fantastic week away that G enjoyed at Easter made an incredible difference to her, perhaps even more than we realised at the time. During a recent conversation with G and M about the Allergy UK Hero awards, we got to discussing the reasons why we might nominate each other for an award. To my surprise G stated that my efforts at finding out about and then sorting out her week away at camp was the best example of how I had made a significant difference to her life as an allergy-sufferer and sibling to a chronically ill child. That comment, for me, sums up just how significant the opportunity to have time away from the stresses and strains of life at home with M and to just be a child really was to her.

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During May, I started to document how our fundraising efforts were going and the different opportunities I had found to raise even more for our chosen charity. We had fantastic support from M’s school, who helped him raise an incredible £81 for OTW and through stalls at local community events and generous friends and family members, we raised another £172. Even better, we still have two fundraising plans in the pipeline, both of which came as something of a surprise to me, albeit a wonderful one. The first came when we were part-way through NEAW16, when I received an unexpected phone-call from the Head of Year 7 at G’s secondary school. Thanks to the continued support from our local press and a well-timed article in the local paper, she had a proposition that overwhelmed me and almost rendered me speechless. Year 7 had an enrichment week coming up after May half-term and, as a lead-in to their week of activities, the year group would be having a non-uniform day on the previous Friday. Her suggestion was that the school would use the day to help us raise awareness of EGID and that the money collected on the day itself would be donated to OTW. indexThe reasoning behind this plan was simple and easy to understand: G and M. They wanted to show support to G as one of their own and, knowing how much she had benefitted from her week away and recognising her commitment to supporting M during NEAW, believed that this was the perfect opportunity to do it.

I was more than happy to agree to this proposal and G was soon on board too. She was asked to write a small piece about EGID, NEAW and OTW that would be shared during tutor time on the Friday morning and each tutor was asked to show their group the short film G and M had created for the week. A well-researched, well-written and fully comprehensive letter was sent out by the school to all families explaining EGID and the charity that the money given on the day would be going to.

This week a cheque was presented to G during the weekly Year 7 assembly for an amazing £280, or thereabouts. The Year 7 Head told me that there were several donations made that exceeded the suggested £1 because the funds are going to a charity that have already helped G and M – something I can’t thank my fellow parents for enough. This money will make a difference to Over The Wall and it’s great to feel that we’re giving a little back. It means that so far we’ve raised an astonishing £530, or thereabouts, which covers half the cost for a child to attend the OTW sibling camp. I don’t know what our final fundraising total for this year will be as there is still one event left to go in August, but I’m glad that we have been able to make such a success of our efforts so far.otw

NEAW 2016 – Giving from the heart

I can’t deny that this week has been a busy one, in fact, given we started our #NEAW campaign at the start of May, the whole month has been non-stop and it’s not showing any sign of slowing down just yet. The last couple of days have been particularly amazing and I’m still buzzing from the success of a combination of planned events, chance e-mails and an unexpected phone-call.

Today has been a real highlight for me. A few weeks ago, M asked the Head of his school whether as well as showing his EGID video as part of a whole school assembly during #NEAW, IMG_0460[1]he could also organise some break-time games to raise some money for Over The Wall, our chosen charity for this year. Having received the go-ahead, it was all systems go at 7Y2D HQ and M recruited some of his friends to help run the games on the day, whilst I put my thinking cap on to come up with some games that would appeal to the children as well as raise some awareness of EGID. We settled on 3 different games: Guess the name of the dog – he was called Phil after those pesky eosino-phils that cause all the problems; Guess the number of sweets – these were Foxes Glacier Mints as they are the only safe sweets M is able to eat and were crammed into one of his feeding bottles and the Eosinophil Treasure Map – find the eosinophils on the body to win a prize. I arrived at school ahead of morning break to set up the room and my helpers, including M in his wheelchair, turned up just ahead of a throng of excited children, eagerly clutching their money ready to have a go at the game of their choice. It proved to be such a roaring success that the queue was out of the door and I was asked if it was possible to come back for another 30 minutes during the lunch-hour, which of course I was delighted to do. In the end, I spent an hour and a half talking to a number of children about M’s condition, what we were raising money for and answering their questions as they thought of them as well as supervising the games. The school raised an amazing £81.30 for the charity and I am incredibly grateful for the support of parents, children and teachers alike who made the day such a huge success.

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There are some more amazing fundraising opportunities coming up and I will be updating my blog as each happens.

Of course, we are delighted with the success we’ve enjoyed so far, but the giving is about so much more than the money we’ve raised for a fantastic charity. Earlier this week, FABED asked for a donation that comes from the heart and will have a long-lasting impact: the gift of time. The gift of 5 minutes to read more about EGID; the gift of the time it takes to share a blog post or information on social media to educate those around you about this illness; the gift of spending time talking to a family living with the condition to understand what they’re going through and maybe even offering some time to help them out, even in a small way. Never underestimate the effect of a friendly smile, a sympathetic word or the offer of a cup of tea. To an EGID parent that could be the action that saves their sanity on that day or helps them feel that they’re not fighting this battle on their own. If you can give a small donation that’s great, but your time is priceless.

 

As well as raising awareness of EGID this week, we are also fundraising for Over The Wall Serious Fun camps. If you are able to donate, even a small amount, that donation with make a big difference to children like M and G, who benefit massively from these camps. You can donate via my Just Giving page or the link on the side of this page. Thank you!

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The 12 day countdown…

13100674_10153433365696123_5191707647482858646_nIt’s hard to believe that we’re already at the start of May, which means that in just 12 days time, it’ll also be the start of National Eosinophil Awareness Week 2016. For me, every year seems to follow the same pattern:

  • At some point in late February/early March I realise that #NEAW16 is approaching and think I probably ought to do something about it…
  • Mid-March arrives and I finally get round to discussing with M and G what they think we should do this year to raise awareness of EGID and might even make some notes…
  • April begins and I realise that time is flying past far quicker than I imagined it would and begin to mildly panic about getting started on our preparations…
  • End of April and, depending on what I’ve managed to arrange thus far, I suddenly go into full-blown melt-down and panic mode as I realise that the start date is just around the corner and absolutely nothing is ready!

This year has been even more hectic than usual and not just because of the additional efforts needed in coping with M’s broken leg and what looks to be a rather nasty flare-up of his EC as a result of it. Between the children and I, we’ve determined to make this year’s Awareness Week bigger and better than ever before, which meant starting much earlier than usual too. In the past week I’ve organised, arranged and pencilled in dates for various events and whilst some will be happening ahead of May 15th, there are others planned for the week itself. Our current plans include:

  • a stall at our local Scouts’ May Fair, raising awareness and money
  • an article in our local paper all about our plans and an update on where M is a year on since the last Awareness week
  • yet another interview on our local BBC radio station, who are willing and delighted to have me in talking all things EGID for the 3rd year in a row
  • M and G have written, illustrated, filmed and directed a brand new video for #NEAW16, which I will be posting a link to in due course
  • M is in discussions with his Headteacher and is hoping to have display boards up in the school hall or library during #NEAW16. He has also planned some lunchtime games to raise some money for Over The Wall, our chosen charity for this year, and wants to show his presentation during an assembly too
  • a stall at our local market at the end of #NEAW16, again an opportunity to get information out there about EGID as well as fundraising once again
  • Mike, G and I have all committed to “Eating like M” for the week, which is the first time that G has wanted to be fully involved and will require lots of inspirational cooking from me
  • Finally, I have committed to attempting to post a new piece of information about EGID, be that fact, photo or update, via my FB and Twitter feed throughout May – and have given fair warning that I’ll be doing 13124538_1016891105068739_2619415221843487211_nso!

Over the next few days, profile pictures across FB and Twitter will slowly turn purple as those families living with EGID around the world start to raise awareness of this chronic illness. It won’t just be me posting facts and information to share with families and friends about how it impacts on everyday life, but others will be doing it too. So, if you see a post, or a blog, or an update that particularly resonates, either from me or someone else, please share it on and help us reach another person who has perhaps never heard of EGID before.

We have decided to support Over The Wall and their serious fun camps through our fundraising this #NEAW. If you’re able to donate even a very small amount, you can follow this link to my JustGiving Page and help us to help OTW make a difference to another child with a chronic illness and their family.

Over The Wall

It was last summer when I first heard about Over The Wall and the amazing camps they run across the UK for children with serious health problems. M’s GOSH and EGID friend, R and his big sister, I otwwere fortunate to go to one and the photos and comments about it posted by their Mum, Annie left me determined to find out more and see whether M might similarly qualify for a place.

Over the Wall is a UK-based charity that is part of the international SeriousFun Children’s Network, which is based on an original idea set up by actor Paul Newman in the 1980s. He identified that the popular US summer camps attended by thousands of American school children every year often left out children living with chronic health conditions because of the inability of camp volunteers to cope with the often complex medical needs. His vision was to open up that opportunity to every child, regardless of their health needs, and he helped to provide full support for every child whilst they were away from home. These children got the full “camp” experience as they were unaccompanied by parents or carers and were able to enjoy a touch of “normal” in their otherwise complicated lives. From that simple starting point, one camp spread across the US and into countries across the world and soon followed the realisation that not only did the sick child miss out, but so, all too often, did their siblings and the idea for a separate siblings camp was formed.

I was delighted to learn about the siblings camp and, feeling that this was another great opportunity for G to escape the constraints of a sick sibling and be surrounded and supported by others in the same situation, duly applied; and so it was that a couple of weeks ago, G headed off to deepest, darkest Dorset for a week of serious fun. Just as her Young Carers group gives her the opportunity to have time away from M with other local youngsters in similar supporting roles, G spent the week with other 8-17 year olds from across the South of England and Wales, who all have 1 thing in a common: a brother or sister living with a chronic health problem. IMG_2504It was a week to be herself, not defined or viewed in her role as M’s big sister, and encouraged to take time to focus on herself without worrying about M and how he would feel.

The children who attend are split into 8 groups: 4 colours determined by their age, with orange for the youngest and blue for the oldest; and then each colour split into separate boys and girls teams. Volunteers are a key part of the camps and their numbers match camper numbers, so for the 60+ children on the 2016 South Siblings Camp, there were 60+ volunteers supporting them, encouraging them and making sure they had fun. During the week the teams participate in a number of activities, from swimming to archery and from climbing to arts and crafts and much, much more. Their days are carefully planned with breaks and an after lunch rest hour, which G tells me was strictly adhered to, as well as a cabin chat every evening, where the teams reflect on their days and every member is awarded a bead to recognise what they’ve achieved. IMG_2589Discos, team games, inter-team challenges, morning singsongs, new activities, skills learned, old favourites and even a talent show sum up G’s week away.

G’s enthusiasm about her time on camp has been wonderful to hear and she was keen to teach M the camp songs and share so many snippets of everything she got up to whilst there. I love the fact that there was little or no discussion about their chronically ill siblings, but instead the focus was well and truly where it needed to be – on these children who all too frequently miss out. I was impressed with the array of meaningful mementoes that G brought home with her, as impressed as she was delighted. More than just her purple OTW t-shirt and a black one for M, but also a carefully crafted wooden bird-box, team and camp photos, a hand-print card holding the reflections of the team – both peers and volunteers – on who G is as a person and why they appreciated her, and that precious collection of beads reflecting her achievements during the week, recognised by her team volunteers and accompanied by a written record of why they felt she had earned them. All of these things have built up her self-confidence in those few days away and have helped her feel even more valued within this new group of friends.

For us, it was an unnaturally quiet week in the household and there was a definite sense of something missing from our every activity. IMG_3019M was reluctant to admit to missing having G around to play with and torment, but his move to sleep in her bed every night she was away revealed the depth of those feelings he didn’t want to show.

As a parent, you know you’re on to a good thing when you child asks for more and G has already asked if we can apply for her to go again next year if at all possible. Her enthusiasm about her experience has bubbled over and infected the whole family with M now having everything firmly crossed that his application for a place on the August Health Challenges Camp is successful. That would see him having those same opportunities to enjoy as G in an environment that we can be confident will be safe for him as there are medical volunteers and 1-to-1 support for the chronically ill children. Even better, the children have decided to make OTW the focus of their fundraising efforts during National Eosinophil Awareness Week this May. The one thing I haven’t mentioned is that these camps are offered completely free to those children who attend, making them truly accessible to all, which is a really fantastic part of this charity. Any funds that G and M can raise will help make a huge difference to others like them and if you’d like to make a small donation, you can do so via this link or the button on the right, with our thanks.

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Children In Need 2015

Along with the rain, wind and grey skies, November also brings with it the star-studded evening of light entertainment that is BBC’s Children in Need. Last year they launched the theme of “Be a Hero” for the event and my pair decided to dress as their personal heroes of Princess Leia and M’s gastro consultant at GOSH. This year, the dressing up part was a little easier to achieve – G headed off to school in her own wardrobe selection and M wore his “Super Tubie” top as we really couldn’t think of any better superhero for him to represent. You might think that this meant I escaped lightly for this year’s celebrations, but for those of you who know me, or follow me on FB, you will be well aware that my youngest actually had very different ideas about how we should spend the night before the big day itself, and what a long night it turned out to be!

His school decided to hold a “Great Children-in-Need Bake-off” competition as part of their fundraising efforts and naturally M was keen to take part. His first step was to decide what he wanted his cake to look like and eventually settled on cupcakes rather than one big cake as they would be easier to sell as part of the school cake sale after the competition was judged. Instead of decorating a dozen individual cupcakes, 20151111_195743M wanted to use them to create Pudsey Bear’s face as best he could. Design done, Wednesday evening saw M whipping up the cake batter with a little supervision from me and the resulting 24 perfectly baked M-friendly cupcakes were left to cool overnight before he tackled the big job of the icing.

One evening to ice to perfection might sound like more than enough time, but when you take into consideration the after-school archery club requiring late pick-up, the long-awaited ‘flu vaccination appointment, the unavoidable homework and the much-needed dinner, you’ll begin to understand why we couldn’t get started until close to 6.30pm. Of course, having baked cakes that he could eat, M was keen to ice with safe icing too, so my first job was to help him make enough coconut oil icing, tinted a rather fetching Pudsey Bear yellow, to cover them all. 20151112_192831We had already made a simple cardboard frame in the shape of Pudsey’s head to hold the cupcakes securely and,having fitted 10 cupcakes neatly into place, M got started on the icing.

It was his first attempt with an icing bag and I have to say I was impressed. M handled the bag and nozzle like a pro and did what I’d consider to be a really good job for his very first go. Watching him I could see how much his motor skills have improved since he was first diagnosed with dyspraxia and he actually made a relatively fiddly task seem remarkably easy. Yellow icing piped, next came the task of rolling out and shaping the other colours to make Pudsey’s spotted bandage and facial features. He tweaked and adjusted until he was finally satisfied with the end result and I have to say it was a job well done. Whilst he couldn’t quite eat all of the cakes, he could eat those covered just with the yellow icing – the ears! – and for the first time in a long time, M knew he’d be able to buy a cake at the school cake sale!

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Now, for most people that would be a great place to stop; but oh no, not in our slightly mad household. Whilst we’d been browsing cookery books and the internet for ideas for his final cake design, M had spotted some Pudsey Bear cake pops and was keen to see if we could make some of those in a M-friendly version too. Cue some hurried reading on my part accompanied by much scratching of my head as I tried to work out a recipe that didn’t involve chocolate in some shape or form. I couldn’t find a single chocolate-free cake pop recipe, so did the next best thing and came up with my own.

20151112_204555I crumbled 8 cupcakes into a bowl and was delighted to see that the grated apple and pear in the cake mix gave enough moisture to form balls. M cut up some drinking straws as I carefully moulded our cake balls and stuck them to the sticks to create the lollipop shape. My full recipe is here, but let’s just say it took multiple moves between table and freezer as well as some much-needed help from all family members on hand to achieve the final look. The ones M decorated for school were not safe for him to try as we ended up using fondant icing, but we did try a few attempts with the coconut oil icing and I reckon with a few more tries, we might have those sussed.

20151113_082414It turned out to be a later night than planned, but M ended up with 2 entries to the school competition he could be proud of and was delighted that nearly all of his cakes sold at the fundraiser on Friday.

Merlin’s Magic Wand

Most of you will know the company Merlin Entertainments, who own and run attractions around the UK such as Alton Towers, the London Eye, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds, to name but a few; but how many are aware of their linked charity, Merlin’s Magic Wand? It’s certainly not an organisation I’d ever heard of and knew nothing about until the start of 2015. This charitable organisation was set up in 2008 by Merlin Entertainments to “…deliver magical experiences to seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged children across the world…” and focus their work in 2 main areas:

  • Magical Days Out at Merlin attractions – over 170, 000 children and their families have been able to enjoy a memorable day out through the provision of entrance tickets and, where necessary, travel grants
  • Taking the Magic to the children – recognising that some children are unable to visit due to the nature of their illnesses or disabilities, Merlin has provided areas such as a “Fantastical Castle play area” in the CHASE Hospice, Guildford and a “Legoland play area” at the Kolding Sygehus Children’s Hospital in Billund, Denmark.

At the start of this year, not long after we’d arrived back home following M’s stay in GOSH for his NG-tube and elemental diet, I heard about Merlin’s Magic Wand and decided to investigate a little further. I wasn’t confident whether M would even be eligible for tickets or not, but thanks to their incredibly informative and easy to navigate website, 20150831_073635I decided to give it a go, working on the principle of nothing ventured, nothing gained. Both children are massive fans of Legoland Windsor and had been clamouring for a visit this year, so I selected that as our number 1 choice and, without saying a word to either of them, sent back the form and sat back to wait and see.

Within a couple of weeks of submitting my application form on-line, I had an e-mail to tell me we had been successful and that 4 entrance tickets would soon be winging their way to me. Unfortunately, a slight delay in their arrival meant we couldn’t use them for our Star Wars trip on May 4th, but the problems were soon resolved, the tickets arrived and I pinned them to our kitchen noticeboard, waiting for the right time to put them to good use. A busy summer has meant that finding that right time to go proved more challenging than we expected and we finally settled on the August bank holiday Monday as something of a “last hurrah” for our summer holidays and before G started her new venture of secondary school.

We set off early on that Monday morning, driving through the pouring rain, confident that, if nothing else, the park would not be too busy, or, at least, not as busy as it might have been if there’d been glorious sunshine. Our travels to Florida last year alerted us to the existence of ride access passes and we were delighted that the same exist at Legoland Windsor. Armed with a letter from our GP confirming the reasons we needed this pass, we headed to guest services as soon as we entered the park. 20150831_114557This is a “benefit” that has obviously been subject to some abuse over the years and Legoland Windsor has stringent checks in place to ensure that only those who genuinely need this assistance receive it.

Our day there was as fantastic as ever and we enjoyed all of our favourite rides (some of them twice!) as well as trying out the brand new Mia’s Riding Adventure, one that G was desperate to go on. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted and there was a slightly panicked moment when we discovered that M’s body-weight wasn’t quite enough to keep the seat back in a comfortable, but secure position for him ride. With some excellent help from the staff manning the ride, we managed to get M settled in a position that allowed him to breathe before the ride started and the screams from my excited duo began. 20150831_100610Mike watched from the sidelines as he and spinning rides really don’t get along and waved merrily to us, slightly misconstruing my attempts to flag a staff member down to help as an unusual display of my own excitement about the ride.

Disappointingly we are no longer able to eat on-site as we’ve found that the cross-contamination is too much for M’s sensitive digestive system to cope with and instead we enjoyed a rather soggy packed lunch, whilst watching both shows – the Pirates of Skeleton Bay and Lego Friends to the Rescue. The children were also able to be part of the audience volunteers at the start of each show, which they loved and which has become an integral part of any day we spend at Legoland Windsor. All in all, we had an amazing day out thanks to the generosity of Merlin’s Magic Wand. The charity depends on donations to help make these tickets available to those children who benefit from them and if you want to find out more about how you can help or show support, please visit their website:

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NEAW 2015 – The Round-up

Last week was a busy week.  We just about managed to pause for breath along the way and achieved far more than we thought was possible.  Having taken a couple of days off from my blog – well I thought you’d probably had more than enough of me last week – I wanted to revisit NEAW 2015 to give a round-up of all our activities:

11030831_828235363934315_6504625663623229869_oE for Educate – I appeared on local radio, there was an article in our local newspaper about NEAW and even a follow-up article this week to talk about what we did. I blogged daily and posted regular updates about our life with EGID, achieving 600 views of my blog during the week as well as numerous shares on both FB and Twitter.

D for Donate – With the help and generosity of friends, family and fellow music lovers, we raised a fantastic £260 for FABED.  Thank you so much, I know that money is going to a great cause and will make a difference to EGID families who need their support just as much as we do.

U for Unite – WE DID IT!  Mike and I survived a week “eating like M” and discovered just how difficult a challenge it is.  I was filled, yet again, with absolute awe and admiration for M’s ability to eat meal after meal after meal consisting of nothing more than chicken, rice and cucumber.  I’m also incredibly proud to be able to share with you that G also did her bit on the Friday and ate “mostly like M“, with just a little bit extra of goats cheese and fruit to keep her smiling during lunchtime at school.  It’s the first year she’s asked to join in our challenge and I’m so impressed that she managed to stick it out without a wobble.

1529734_826685834089268_6472897324569407860_oC for Change – I hope we managed to change people’s attitude to and understanding of EGID during the week.  It was great to see the hashtag #morethanfoodallergies trending across FB and Twitter because that’s the key point I wanted to communicate last week: that whilst M struggles with food, his allergies are only a very small part of a much bigger picture.

A for Awareness – We raised awareness in everything we did.  Pink ribbons adorned our clothes, pump backpacks and hair, FABED awareness bands could be spotted around our wrists and M shared his video with the world.  It has had nearly 400 hits on YouTube, which made M’s week and something that started as a small project to encourage him to communicate his feelings about his illness morphed into a fantastic tool that allowed him to actively take part in raising awareness this week.

11265424_10152776813631123_3399504883350731420_nT for Thanks – I said my thanks and expected nothing more, but received some lovely compliments back from those of you reading and sharing my blog.  I’m just a Mum trying to do the best I can for my children and not always getting it right, but it was very nice to be told that I am “…the supermummiest mummy of the lot…” especially by someone who’s not even a family member and therefore under no obligation to believe that to actually be the case!

E for Engage – It may have been the hardest blog post to write for me, but M and G proved that they could engage with their school-mates in the most impressive of ways.  M presented his video at school throughout the week and had a fantastic response.  At the end of the week, I received this lovely and completely unexpected e-mail from G’s teacher to tell me about her class’s response to what M had to say:

M came to visit us with his presentation earlier on in the week and I was amazed, not only by the presentation, but also by his maturity and bravery.  He was just amazing and a real inspiration to us all.  G was also fantastic – helping answer some of the children’s questions and supporting M in the process.  They are both absolutely amazing – a big well done to them and your whole family.

And that just about sums up NEAW 2015 for us, so it must be time to put our feet up for another year…well, a Mum can dream, can’t she?!feetup

Day 5 and finally it’s A for Awareness!

A for Awareness has meant:

This…                                                                    and this…

                                                          …lots of this…

and this…  

This is the amazing video that M made, with help from his big sister, to share his story about life with EGID.  By the time this blog post is published, he will have presented it to every class in his school – that’s 8 classes, approximately 220 children and around 15 members of staff who will now understand his journey a little better.

So come on, you all know the drill by now:  share, share and share some more and help us get M’s message out there.

Changing Attitudes – NEAW 2015

Last week I took part in the Diabetes blog week and looked at my changing attitude to my T1D over the past 3 decades as well as changes I hope will happen in the future.  social-media-treeMy plea for improved education about T1D vs. T2D is closely linked to my longing for increased awareness about EGID and has resulted in my efforts to bring the focus of family, friends and our local community to the subject through local media coverage and social media this week.

During a music break in my recent radio interview, the presenter asked me an interesting question: whether I’m upset when people misunderstand EGID?  We had been discussing off-air the fact that there is often recognition of the food allergies side of the illness, rather than the disease itself and whilst I understand that allergies are something easy for people to understand, I’m frustrated that that’s what gets people interested in finding out more.  I pondered his question for a while and once the session was over was able to give him my honest answer: No.  I’m not upset that people misunderstand EGID because I’m usually impressed that they know something about it. The truth is that they must have heard of EGID in the first place to be capable of misunderstanding this complex disease and therein lies the problem.  Ignorance of EGID and the unseen effects it has on individual and family alike means that those of us living with it are sadly often viewed as making it all up or wildly exaggerating the severity. That attitude can leave a family feeling very alone at a time when emotional and practical support is needed most.

 This is what today’s C is all about – Changing Attitudes.


The truth about EGID is this:  It’s not just about the food allergies, that’s the easy bit to understand and, in many ways, the easiest bit to live with.  It’s about much, much more than that.  It’s about the unexplained joint aches, the never-ending tummy cramps, the relentless feelings of nausea or reflux whenever you eat. The dark shadows under the eyes, the manic mood swings, the overwhelming lethargy, or the inability to fall asleep and stay that way.  The damaged bowel, the fear of not being near enough to a toilet whenever you need one, or knowing that you’ll never get there in time anyway.  legoThe fear of your friends making fun of your allergies or finding out that you’re still wearing a pull-up because your bowel can’t be relied on when you most need it to.  The daily medicines, restricted diets and the feeding tubes. The chronic pain that can reduce you to tears, yet you don’t complain because nothing helps, even when it’s at its worst and you’re familiar with just about every pain chart created in the history of man.

It’s about getting used to these things as being normal, or not even realising they’re not. 

And it affects the whole family, not just the one with the diagnosis.  The endless merry-go-round of numerous hospital appointments, medicines to be taken and food to be cooked safely, avoiding cross-contamination at all costs is exhausting.  The keeping of meticulous daily records of food eaten and symptoms experienced to try to find a link and make sense of what’s going on, and dealing with the self-recrimination when you miss a day out because what if that was the one that would give you more answers? Pictures July 06 030Day trips, meals out, holidays all require military precision to organise and every decision is coloured by whether needs can be met or not. The feelings of isolation, for parent and sibling alike, because it’s frequently the case that there is no-one else nearby who has the same experiences or can truly understand. The lack of any conversation that doesn’t revolve around toileting and being too worn out to come up with an alternative subject.  The sense that I, as the parent, know more about the intricacies of my son’s chronic illness than any medical professional we meet along the way and the frightening realisation that my children know infinitely more than them too.

It’s about the heartbreak of holding my sobbing child at 3am, tears streaming down my own cheeks as I struggle to find the words to bring the comfort that nothing else can bring at that moment in time.

At our recent admission at GOSH, one of the gastro consultants told me that it is widely recognised that children with gastro conditions have the worst quality of life of any child living with a chronic illness.  EGID is an invisible illness, one where the individual frequently learns to hide, disguise and survive their struggles and just carries on regardless, accepting this life as their norm.  Families supporting a loved one with EGID often feel isolated – not just from their circle of friends, but from the medical community, who know little about it and may question the integrity of the very people who are fighting to get the best care they possibly can.  It’s not a parental fad about food allergies or an over-anxious Mum fussing about the small things; and it’s definitely not a figment of anyone’s imagination.  The effects of EGID can be cruel to experience and devastating to see.  So a change in attitudes is not only important, but a necessity for all those living with this diagnosis.

Now you know a little more about EGID and just how it impacts, take some time to think about how you can support those you know living with this disease.  Don’t think that there’s nothing you can do to help.  An offer of a cup of tea once the school-run is over, a home-cooked meal for the parent not in hospital or checking to see if there’s anything they need from the shops is more than enough.  No gesture is too small: a smile, a text message or even a FB like or comment on Twitter will let that family know that they’re in your thoughts and that there is hope for change in the future.