Hi my name is Fiona Stevenson.
I speak about “Overcoming Challenges” having been born awkward and stayed awkward as I was a breach baby has certainly given me challenges over the years.
Little did I realise that I was disabled until 2006 when I started experiencing bad back pain and walking up Pride Hill in Shrewsbury and I could not make it walking up the hill until I turned around and walked up the hill backwards. Instead of being out on errands for 10 minutes I was out for over an hour. Trying to cope with the excruciating pain I was taking deep breaths, stopping to ease the pain and walking on very slowly was very hard progress. I returned to the office feeling really awkward due to the pain and was sweating due feeling generally yuck. My boss looked up as I eventually returned to the office. He could see I was not well and advised I go to see my GP as soon as I could and not return to the office until I had been seen.
My GP thought I had just pulled a muscle in my back and if three weeks had passed and no improvement to go back to be seen. Three weeks later I was back to see the GP. I was referred to see a consultant at my local hospital. Investigations were started to find out what was going on.
Unfortunately, these investigations and tests had to stop as in December 2006 I was told I was facing breast cancer for the 7th time. This time it was going to be a left mastectomy. I learnt a lot about breast cancer during this time and discovered patients do not sleep very well. Early hours is when support is needed the most. Depression and anxiety appear at these hours more than any other. The dark seems to make everything appear worse than it is. During these hours I ended up chatting online to others going through very similar experiences.
With the help of friends online a website to ensure ladies realised the importance of wearing the correct fitting bra was set up. In 2009 I contacted Debenhams as they were coming out top in their bra fitting service to see if they would be prepared to sell mastectomy bras. I got told there was no call for it. I didn’t give up. I rose to the challenge and in September 2010 I was invited to Sheffield to attend a focus group. Debenhams had changed their minds. Mastectomy bras available under £20. I was lucky enough to be able to trial them in the summer of 2011 and Debenhams launched mastectomy bras online and in 35 stores.
In 2010 I was also undergoing investigations and tests for my back pain, having already been issued with a wheelchair. I stated above I soon realised I was born awkward. By being a breach baby I was diagnosed with hip dysplagia, an extra vertebra in my lower spine, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Turns out I am greedy when it comes to medical conditions.
So that led me to have a manual wheelchair. My first wheelchair was an attendant wheelchair which meant I had to be pushed around by another person as I had limited use of my left arm following my 4th lumpectomy. Told you I was greedy.
In 2009 I regained the use of my left arm thanks to the Rotary Club of Stafford Castle giving me a chance to have a go at bench pressing and by me accepting the challenge of giving it a go.
In 2010 I got “the tank” my first self-propelling wheelchair. In 2015 I got a new wheelchair I call it “Zippy”. For those around my age you may remember Rainbow TV show and for those of you who were not around please look it up. I speak too much, Zippy is orange as well as being fast and I am sure people would love to zip me up when I speak too much.
Zippy and I go out on adventures together. September 2018 was our first adventure on a train together to London. November 2018 was another trip to London this did not go according to plan and Zippy’s brakes ended up broken.
Instead of being full of anger and being proactive I told the story of what had happened to West Midlands Railways and Virgin. By doing that I am currently a volunteer who attends Strategy Equality Group meetings in Birmingham to help West Midlands Railways improve services for all.
I also volunteer with Juniper Training where I help students gain confidence to face real life interviews and speak about “Overcoming Challenges”. We all face them at some point in our lives. The biggest one I have is the challenge of getting out of bed in the morning.
If I see something that can be changed, I will do my best to change it for the better. Success does not happen overnight for me. I am a health champion and use my experience as a patient to change things for the better.
The biggest challenges I face are access issues to venues, hotels and transport.
If you would like to know more about what I do and how I can help you improve access for all, please get in touch.
Mobile 07805 480366