We are extremely excited to announce the launch of our charity. Please check out our charity's website by clicking on the link to the right:

Search This Blog

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Get aLIVE!

If there was a facility to record audio on this blog you would now hear a massive 'CRACK'- the sound of me slapping my wrist for being AWOL for sooooo long now! I'm so sorry folks!

I have indeed started to write you three blog posts over the last few weeks, which have all made it no further that the drafts box, as a rather important task keeps dragging away from all other functions in life including eating, sleeping, cleaning my teeth and walking the dog! All of these tasks and more are currently being interrupted by the process of arranging my new charity Get a Life! 's first ever charity event on the 12th December.

The event is called Get aLIVE! and is to be a an uplifting and exciting celebration of life and positivity expressed through LIVE music, dance & entertainment.

Professional musical theatre, funk, pop and classical performers are travelling from all over the country to Shanklin Theatre on the Isle of Wight, for one night only to support this magnificent cause.

If you live on or near the Isle of Wight, why not join us for a truly fantastic night out for a truly fantastic charity?
 This fantastic night will not only include special touches such as a balloon animal and sweet treats for every child, but for those older audience members there will be FREE scrummy homemade mince pies, as well as the opportunity to win signed Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing goodies, as well as many other wonderful prizes including theatre tickets for Spotlight (IOW Ltd)'s Sleeping Beauty, £250 children's party voucher, a tour around BBC Television Centre and many, many more incredible prizes!

Come along and help get this incredible new charity off to a flying start by enjoying an amazing night out of quality LIVE entertainment - you can't lose!

Book NOW to avoid disappointment! Tickets Adults £11 Concessions £8 (Party Rates Available)

Please keep an eye on the Get aLIVE! Facebook page for more information on all of the wonderful West End performer and other talented individuals who will be be making Get aLIVE! the most incredible night!

I promise you that I will be in touch again very soon; but at present the combination of planning this event with the inevitable clash of hospital time has made life a little tricky to blog!

I hope that you are all well.

Do please help me spread the word about Get aLIVE! 12th December at Shanklin Theatre, Isle of Wight.
Stay healthy everyone.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

WOW! What a Difference a Year Can Make!

Phew- what a couple of weeks it has been and what a difference a year filled with emotional support, fantastic family and a healthier frame of mind, can make.

This time last year I remember my October of 2011 to be a painful one, both physically and emotionally.
12 months on and the physical pain may not be better, but the mind and psyche is a hell of a lot healthier that's for sure! As a result of which, my life is now a very different one to that it was a year ago- one where I can now finally be at peace with the fact that I will not get better and live the life I once knew and thought that I would live forever; but instead will make the most of all that I still do have in my life, which is an incredible amount. I am a very lucky girl.

Talking of this luck and good fortune of late- two weeks ago tomorrow, (Monday 15th October), my husband Garry and I had the incredible honour of attending the Parliamentary Launch of LLoyds Banking Group and Disability Rights UK's new Disability Programme at The Palace of Westminster.

The reception, which was held in Dining Room A of The Houses of Parliament, was hosted by The Right Honourable Ann McGuire MP The Shadow Minister for Disability, and was also attended by The Right Honourable Esther McVey MP, The Government's new Minister for Disabled People.
I was invited to attend the event after LLoyds Banking Group became aware of my story and my passion to bring about the improved provision of emotional support for people who become disabled, after I was featured in The Sun newspaper back in August.
Since that article was published I have managed to get Get a Life! registered by The Charity Commission (Reg. Charity No. 1149041) and I'm now looking forward to hosting Get a Life!'s first fund raising event, which is to be held at Shanklin Theatre Isle of Wight, which is the theatre where I once used to work as resident choreographer back in my old able-bodied life- taking my story full circle, back to the life I once lived before my disability.
 I was so thrilled to get the invite to Monday's reception at The Palace of Westminster- wheeling into the Houses of Parliament was enough to make me need to pinch myself; then seeing my charity's display next to that of Disability Rights UK was just incredible!
Getting to speak with The Minister For Disabled People, Esther McVey MP and all the inspiring individuals in attendance at this reception was also just amazing.
After six years spent predominantly in bed, attending this event made me feel like I had finally re-taken the reigns of my life once again, and that I was indeed really going to make Get a Life! a huge success and achieve my dream of preventing other people having to find their way in the dark after becoming disabled, and having to adjust to their new lives with a disability without emotional support- like my family and I have had to.

Monday's Parliamentary Reception highlighted the wonderful example that Lloyds has set to other businesses in their attempts to make their company accessible for both their customers and their employees.
LLoyds Director of Customer Services Martin Dodd spoke of his gratitude to the individuals and organisations who had given Lloyds their valuable insights into banking and life in general with a disability, to make this programme possible and kindly mentioned me by name, thanking me personally in his speech for my efforts.
Thank you Martin.
The event was a wonderful day both for me as an individual and for Get a Life! as a new fast emerging charity.
Not least because I was fortunate enough to have been given one-on-one time with The Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey, who spoke with me at length about Get a Life!'s plans to support relationships through this difficult transition and who asked me about my personal journey that lead to me starting the charity and wished her every luck and success with the charity.

Buzzing from this meeting and my incredible day spent at The Palace of Westminster- my friend generously treated Garry and I to a lovely meal that evening to celebrate. 
Although the meal was just beautiful, the icing on the cake of the day had to be the fact that dining a few tables away from us was the lovely Mr Kevin McCloud, who kindly took the time to sit and chat and have a photo with us! What a lovely man! What a truly amazing day!

If I am to be completely honest with you, (which is what writing this blog is all about!)- I have to say that I was actually incredibly scared about attending this parliamentary launch event: but the day's success, really proved to me that doing things that really scare you the most, really do give you the most reward.

 To be really frank with you, I have internalised my anxiety and stress for months now over the fact that I have no experience of running a business/charity- there's not an awful lot of call for the experiences of a dancer and an air hostess when running a charity- or is there?.
My biggest anxiety since my accident has always been that every area that I have ever worked in, ( I trained as a professional dancer and then joined Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew to travel the world)- is now redundant to me.
What experience do I have?
What right did I have to set up a charity?

It is only on reflection, now that Monday's intimidating deadline has passed, that I can see that my experiences, however diverse from what I am currently trying to do with Get a Life! ,are all relevant and valuable in their own way and right.

As a dancer and a choreographer I learnt how to prepare for shows and deal with nerves, and as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic, I not only enriched my life experiences by travelling the world and meeting and interacting with many characters and cultures; but from Virgin as a company I learnt the value of the 'Virgin flare'- translated (in my opinion) as doing all that you can to keep your spirits high and positive so that you can do all that you can to make those around you feel blessed and valued and in turn keep their spirits high and happy too.

I LOVED my job with Virgin Atlantic, not least because I got to travel the world and meet the most amazing people whilst doing so, but because I was also introduced to the concept that The School of Life is indeed a valuable and acceptable form of education, and there's no more intense an exam in such an institution as having to adapt and adjust to becoming disabled.

For those of you who are familiar with Sir Richard's story, you will know that despite a burning desire to be a journalist, Richard suffered from severe dyslexia which prevented him from following this goal via the conventional path.

We can all obviously see that the proof of this pudding really is in the eating and despite this disability, Sir Richard has achieved great success in so very many areas.

From first reading more about my future boss in my cabin crew application pack back in 2005; it is only since becoming disabled myself that his story and experiences have really resonated with me and my yearning to regain my life after adversity.

For some reason I have always had an insecurity that I do not have a degree or a university education of any kind, (despite being very academic at school, my heart's desire was to become a dancer, which I was acutely aware was a career that needed to be commenced at a young age- so I subsequently took a scholarship to a highly respected dance and drama school to pursue my dreams of becoming a dancer and musical theatre performer and teacher at the incredibly young age of only 16).
With this always in my mind and heart and with the fantastic freedom that working as Virgin crew allowed, I set about looking at distance learning courses so that I may be able to pursue my desire to gain my degree in English language and pursue my goal to gain a career in writing myself.

This feeling of inadequacy of having not obtained this yearned for conventional education, was highlighted when I realised that my injuries from my car accident were indeed going to make me disabled and consequently leave me unable to return to my trained careers in dance and air travel.
As I recently tweeted back to Mr Branson after he tweeted me a kind message of encouragement....

 Best of luck with your positive good works. Much love Richard Branson.

 Thank u 4taking time 2reply LOVED working 4u- only left as couldn't fit wheelchair down aisle of A340!

My feelings of fear and inadequacy and insecurity have crippled me for a vast proportion of my six years of rehabilitation since my car accident left me disabled.

I have had panic attacks and sleepless nights over my worries of how I could possibly ever find myself a worthwhile career that I felt half as passionately about as I did my careers with Virgin and in the theatre, when my disability is not simply a physical restriction, but one which sends my nervous system into a crazy word of chronic, unimaginable, unrelenting pain. 
My immune system has also been compromised and my high levels of morphine and nerve pain related opiates (which I will never come off of) also rule me with their complicated side effect on my health.
As a result of the above and my degenerative neurological disease, anything I do,  I pay a painful price for.

Some of my lowest points since becoming disabled have been firstly my realisation that I would not return to my life as a Virgin cabin crew and had to hang up my treasured red uniform, and secondly my realisation that I could not just walk back into a structured nine- to -five work environment of any kind.

Reading Branson's books, and learning more about the man who refuses to say 'no' and accept that things can't be done, as he does not have the required formal education to do so, have actually payed a huge part in giving me my life back.

The title of his book, 'Screw Business as Usual', says it all really. Realising that life and the world of employment is still open to you even if it is not the way that you once knew. There are different paths in life to the conventional.

Although I am not yet in employment, by focusing the time that I have been physically and cognitively well enough to do so over the last six years, on reading inspirational books, pursuing the cathartic process of writing to you in this blog and spending every strong enough minute planning and brainstorming ideas of how I could possibly ever improve the lives of people who become disabled- Get a Life! was born and is giving me and those involved with it's development, the encouragement to know that the lives of  people who have to adapt to disability really can be made easier.

One other vital point that has helped me personally start to feel like a valuable member of society again is self belief.
I completely appreciate that this is something that is easier said than done. 
How on earth can you have belief in yourself when some of the elements of your life that you have always nurtured or treasured, or even leaned upon as your confidence rock are now redundant to you?
But for me, once I had mourned the loss of the life that I would not live and started to look at all that I still had, I could look at finding a new path in life and making the most of the journey down that route for what it was, ( however different or indeed difficult)- a new start and a new chance in life.
I was blessed that I was still alive and didn't die in that car crash that so many do each year on our country's road.
I still have my simply amazing family there to enjoy this new journey with me and by pursuing something I feel so incredibly passionate about, I have a new lease of life again.
I personally feel blessed that I also have a faith that keeps me strong during my down times. It is an area in my life that has been rocked and tested during my times of depression in coming to terms with my disability, but also one that has been a rock and comfort blanket during my darkest times.

I am blessed too, to not only have my faith and  my inspiration influences, but also my wonderful family and friends- however despite these things I have learnt that trying to adjust, adapt and regain ones life after disability robs you of everything you have always done, loved and taken for granted would always be so, is bloody difficult and without the right support and guidance can bring even the strongest of us to our knees.

There NEEDS to be the infrastructure of emotional support for both those who become disabled and their family and friends that Get a Life! are working to create.

Both in terms of the charity and me as an individual, this has been a huge week.

Despite being proposed to, married, looked after, treasured and constantly reassured by my husband since my accident, I have spent the last six wondering why on earth my husband would want to be with someone so useless and incapable of bringing in a wage to our household, or any value of any kind in my opinion.

To see my husband look at me with a look of pride in his eyes when I was talking to ministers, charity leaders and other fabulous people at the parliamentary reception- meant the absolute world to me on Monday. 
Garry then took the time to treat me and express this pride by taking me for a meal at one of my favourite restaurants- Babylon at Kensington Roof Gardens the following day to celebrate Get a Life!'s big day out.

I adore Babylon not least because it has scrummy food and a view over London to die for, but because it is a place where I can go to, be treated to a special dinner and not have to worry about furniture having to be moved, toilet door keys having to be obtained, and restaurant diners having to be disturbed- everything is there for me and the facilities are as accessible to me as to my husband. I can maintain my dignity throughout the night.

This combined, with the disability programme that was launched in parliament one week ago, prove that by taking a little time, trouble and thought, businesses and services can be made accessible to us all, and the lives of those who become disabled, ( or indeed are born with disabilities) can be made as full as possible.

This point was again reiterated last night when I excitedly attended a performance of one of my dearest friends Lizzie Deane, who has not only been there as one of those incredible friends who has lent her ear in times of depression and distress, but also has been there to cheer me up whenever I hear her wonderful voice.

Last night was one of these happy occasions, as I sat their beaming with pride as I watched and listened to her captivate the diners at the rather wonderful, rather wonderfully accessible and disabled friendly- Boisdale Canary Wharf.

I'm sure that Lizzie won't mind me saying that she is also someone who has inspired me greatly, as she has also, like so many of us, has had far from an easy time over the last few years.
What inspires and encourages me is that this marvellous lady, (like my old boss and twitter friend Mr Branson!), hasn't let negativity and restrictions stop her- rather she has used these difficult experiences to find a new path in life, ( which is exactly what Get a Life! are there to promote!) and in her case, use these difficult experiences to shape her truly incredible and soulful music!

It is friends like Lizzie and public figures like Branson that inspire me and keep me going during the times that I think my dreams aren't reachable. 
Both of these people in one way or the other have been told 'no' you can't do that, and both in their own way have said Screw it Just Do it!, (for those of you who don't know this is the title of Richard's manual for business).

I believe that one of the key things for changing the feeling of struggling through that transition into becoming disabled, to embracing the life that still lays before you, is exploring inspirational books, self-help CDs and individuals in the media, ( such as those incredible Paralympians, Katie Piper and of course Mr B!).

Before I sign off today to snuggle on the sofa on this wintry Sunday afternoon to watch my favourite and uplifting programme Strictly Come Dancing that I recorded last night- (once a dancer always a glitter and sequin junkie!)- I will leave you with a list of those books, films and individuals who have helped me flip my existence from struggling- through coping and finally to embracing my new existence!

(That is of course if I manage to kick one of my boys off of the sofa to make room for me!)
Please bare in mind that these are just sources of inspiration which have helped me. There were MANY more books etc. that I read during my thirst for knowledge and emotional recovery. These examples are just those which have helped me personally and finding your path to acceptance, although extremely difficult at the time, is what you will look back on and feel proudest of- getting through that time of feeling lost and turning it around to feeling excited by what lies ahead.

You will do it! I believe that you will, so try to believe it yourself. It took me six years, but I believe that time could have been shortened by receiving the emotional support that I am trying to implement with Get a Life!

Enjoy your Sunday afternoon and if you are struggling to accept an altered life in whatever shape or form- maybe start getting your life back by exploring some of the resources below.

Say strong and keep going everyone.

God bless you always. 

Karen. x

The Secret- Rhonda Byron (also available in CD & DVD)
The Power- Rhonda Byron
The Magic- Rhonda Byron
The Daily Light- New International Version
Endal- Allen and Sandra Parton
Beautiful- Katie Piper
The 15 Minute Rule- Caroline Buchanon
Losing My Virginity/ Screw it, Let's Do it & Screw Business As Usual- Richard Branson.
Diamonds in The Dust- Joni Eareckson Tada 
Strong Woman: Ambition, Grit and a Great pair of Heels- Karren Brady

Relate- One of the best things my husband and I ever did was accept the help from this around us and go to a Relate counsellor to help us through the difficult transition of us both accepting our future living with my disability.

Some quotes I have stuck everywhere on my desk...

- "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."- Epictetus.
- "Everything is possible for the person who believes"- Jesus Christ.
- "We need to be the change we wish to see in the world". Mahatma Gandhi.
- " All you can possibly need or desire is already yours. Call your desires into being by imagining and feeling your wish fulfilled."- Neville Goddard.
- "A willingness to make changes for the better is growth pure and simple."- Caroline Buchanan.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Listen Here...

Hi all, I hope that you are well and as pain free as is at all possible for you to be.

I am pleased to let you all know that IW Radio have now made my interview that was aired last week on my life pre and post disability, and how my charity 'Get a Life!' came into being- available to listen again through the following link. Radio Interview

Discover Disability is also talked about in this interview and what indeed the inspiration for starting writing this blog was.

Thanks so much for all of the lovely feedback that I have received following the interview, I'm so grateful and very touched by your support and encouragement. 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Radio Interview

Hi folks, apologies again for not having been in touch, but as my last post implied, my pain has been pretty bad of late.

Despite the above, today has been a pretty wonderful day spent having Sunday lunch with friends, followed by sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine buried underneath a blanket, at the fear of hearing my squeaky 'mouse on helium' like voice, on my first ever radio interview, talking about my life both pre and post disability and how events have lead to me starting this blog and subsequently my charity Get a Life!

Despite my anxiety, I actually really enjoyed the interview with legendary host of Britain's longest running non-stop radio chat show John Hannam -the product of which you can listen to again this evening between 10pm and midnight, (Deacon Blue & Celia Imrie appearing first & me featured about one hour in, so just after 11pm) on John Hannam Meets- Karen Reader

If you did listen to John's show and this is indeed your first visit to Discover Disability, then why not check out my first ever post below.

It was such a privilege to be interviewed by such a broadcasting legend who has literally interviewed everyone- royals, musicians, actors, authors...  and now little old me!

The interview will be available to listen again on line in the next few days at Isle of Wight Radio Online & I will post a link to it here & on the charity website Get a Life Charity

Enjoy a lovely Sunday folks- I'm going off to celebrate with the rest of my glass of Sauvignon
Blanc! Cheers!

So here it is folks, once again the first blog from Discover Disability...

Well here goes nothing; off I venture into the wonderful world of blogging. Be gentle with me, I'm a blogging virgin....

Why should you read this blog?

 The date is 29th April in the year 2011, & the big day hath cometh at last. No, it’s not the much awaited nuptials of Wills & Kate, nor is it the anticipated arrival of the latest season of 'Glee' to hit our shores; instead it is the arrival of a sleek, sophisticated & pretty darn sexy new companion in my life- ‘The Beast’: the 4x4, off-roading, road legal power chair, that I am not too ashamed too admit, I have already fallen deeply in love with!

If you had told me five years ago that I would be getting this excited about a wheelchair, then I would have laughed you all the way to the mobility shop: however, the new woman that I have become as a result of my circumstances isn't laughing, & is indeed sincerely smitten!

Having only recently accepted in my heart that I'm disabled, I class myself as a newbie to this interesting & challenging existence of ‘one with a disability', despite which, I’m not too naive as to think that my perception of these new milestones is one shared by all - or is it?  
I honestly have no idea; which is an element of why I am writing this, in the hope that one of you may pick up your laptop to respond to me! 

On reflection of this last paragraph, I appreciate that the very fact that I am referring to life with a disability as ‘interesting & challenging’ is subjective in itself. 
I'm starting to appreciate the minefield of unintended offence that I may cause as a result of not having lived the years of disability that some of you may- however, equally, I no longer share many of the feelings & experiences of my able-bodied friends either.
I fall between two lives; one where after 23 years, I was just beginning to get into my stride, & now one where everything is new & pretty daunting at times.

I can see that some of you may find it a little grating for a woman who's lived a mere fraction of your own life with disability, to be merrily singing the joys of her shiny new chair, (when perhaps you have been imprisoned in your own for your whole life); if this is so, then please simply close the browser window & get on with your day. I wish you well.
 Alternatively, if I'm intriguing you, irritating you to the point that you want to share your contrary opinion; or possibly pleasing you that someone is finally vocalising elements of that grey area that comes with becoming disabled following an able bodied-life- then please stick with me through my personal growth & adaptation from able-bodied to disabled; dancer to writer. So on I go….

I assure you that the very last thing that I want to do is offend or antagonise any of you who have taken the time to read my rambling thoughts & feelings thus far- provoke opinion & passion yes; but offend you, no.

I am on a personal quest of acceptance of this radical change in my lifestyle, & as a result of which, I have finally acquired the conviction to stop resisting my difficult feelings attributed to this transition, & instead accept that they exist, are valid, & perfectly acceptable to share with others: be it with those who may be feeling precisely what I am, those who have no experience of my plight, & just want to empathize with others; or with those who are somewhere on the spectrum between the two. 

 Like life in general, there is not a manual for learning how to live with a disability, & how to emotionally put to bed the life, & aspects & aspirations of such that you had before. 
There is a whole new set of ‘life skills’ & emotional strengths to be learned, as well as a whole new list of hopes to dream of.

It was through my attempt to get my head around this seemingly incomprehensible metamorphosis, that I got the impetus to create this blog, & with it the associated charity that I intend to establish alongside it.
The proposed objectives of this charity are to raise awareness & funds to necessitate the appropriate infrastructure of psychological support for those going through the transitional period from being able-bodied to becoming disabled.
Having experienced this personally, I passionately feel that the current situation is far from adequate, & that those such as my husband & parents, (who have been involved first hand in my accident & subsequent rehabilitation), could too benefit from more structured emotional assistance.

I would love this site to reach out to those who are experiencing this transition, & for this website to become a community in which all are welcome to share their thoughts & feelings either of their own experiences, or in response to an opinion felt by reading about mine

I feel it imperative for my blog to also highlight how different we are as individuals notwithstanding our physical state.
Before we became disabled we were different characters & personalities, & just because we have experienced circumstances that now class us as such, does not mean that we should be classified as one voice.
We all have different levels of physical disability, mental disability, emotional trauma & pain, as well as levels of tolerance, acceptance & patience like those who are blessed without disability.
Some disabilities are plainly visible for all to see, whereas some are imperceptible to others- both situations are not without their relative frustrations.

 I hope that we can use the similarities & the differences between us to educate, relate & inform, so that anyone walking those few paces or wheel strokes behind me, may find those answers that I was unable to in that darkest hour of adjustment.
I plan to share the facts & feelings that I obtain & learn along this journey, &  more importantly I yearn to be enlightened particularly by those who have always been disabled & have never been given the opportunities that I have been blessed with, ( & no doubt at times squandered), in my 23 years of able-bodied life.

Whatever you may take from these words of mine, I wish you luck on your own journey ahead of you. Whatever your place of origin may be, or whatever your level, or form of disability; we are all heading on the same path - the path of acceptance to embrace our lives.

I pray that as a Discover Disability community we can be thankful for the blessings that we do have, however plenty or few, & get living the years that we have been blessed with. Good luck all. I hope to see you again! x

My transition between two lives; from dancer & air hostess, through hospital hell to a new life. There's no changing it, so lets get living it!

Dancing days

Flying around the world as a 'Virgin hostie'!
Spinal surgery isn't much fun, but it is definitely made easier with a lovely hubby holding your hand!Learning to live again
Embrace & enjoy your life, whatever form you & it may take.