So here are the basics. My name is Ruth. I’m 50, married and Mum to 3 girls who I totally adore. I live in South Wales close enough to Cardiff to be able to enjoy all that this amazing city has to offer but also close to the coast and the countryside – the perfect combination.
In 2012 life was pretty busy. I was a full time Primary School teacher, a Mum, a wife. Juggling the different roles was normal and, so I thought, manageable. Then on July 3rd, at the age of 43, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was caught early and the lump was small. I escaped chemotherapy but had a Lumpectomy, radiotherapy and in the September started on Tamoxifen. Despite the low grade of the cancer it literally felt like my life was falling apart. As so many people who undergo cancer treatment would tell you – the reality often hits afterwards. I now openly admit to struggling with anxiety, fear and anger about the way my life had gone and about the future.
After finishing radiotherapy and starting on the Tamoxifen I began to experience fatigue. It was treated as post radiotherapy /cancer related fatigue and I went on various courses to help me to manage it. I went back to work in September 2013 but it became pretty clear that my energy levels were not going to miraculously recover. For 2 more years I tried to keep going with work but every few weeks would need to take time off to reboot my system.
In September 2015 I attended a residential fatigue Management programme and finally accepted that this was more than cancer related fatigue and that if I wanted to manage it, I was going to have to start doing things differently. In January 2016 I was finally given a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) by my GP. It didn’t really change anything but at least I had a very long name for how I was feeling.
Fast forward to February 2017 and I was still trying to work, still taking time off when symptoms got too bad and getting increasingly angry and frustrated that I couldn’t fix this. I came across a Clinic in London that specialised in CFS/ME and in April 2017 went on a 3 day course. It was during this course that I had my first fatigue related Nutritionist consultation. I had seen a Nutritionist previously and had made changes to my diet but it had all felt pretty hit and miss. This time I had a Nutrition protocol to follow and one of the first things we focused on was levelling my blood sugars and increasing my protein intake. I thought that I ate well and was maybe a little complacent that having been a vegetarian since the age of 19 I had chosen the healthy route. It was only when I tweaked my diet that I realised how much I could still change.
And so we come to breakfast! I have always had and loved breakfast – the thought of starting the day without it just doesn’t sit well with me. However, my bowl of cereal didn’t give me lasting energy and by mid -morning I would need a snack. My energy levels before lunch were always very low and I often felt quite shaky as the morning progressed. So I started to look for ways to make my breakfast more substantial and interesting.
My first change was to start eating porridge which certainly helped but I felt that it needed tweaking to really match my energy needs. So that’s when I started to research ways to really boost my energy. Gradually with inspiration from a number of food bloggers and recipe books I became more adventurous. I began to notice a real change in my morning energy levels. I didn’t need that mid – morning snack anymore. I could even make late morning plans knowing that I would no longer experience a crash in energy or blood sugars. I really began to look forward to my breakfasts. It was no longer a meal to be eaten out of necessity but a meal to be enjoyed and a meal which I knew helped to stabilise my energy levels.
In August 2017 I accepted voluntary redundancy from my job. It was an incredibly hard decision to make but I knew that if I had any chance of making a full recovery the demands of teaching were no longer an option for me. The temptation was to immediately think ‘what next?’ but I knew that I needed time to find my activity baseline and to try to get rid of some of the very unpleasant CFS/ME symptoms. So with the support of my family and the London clinic I spent a number of months pottering and resting. During this time I found that the kitchen was both my happy and my creative place. I began to play around with the idea of trying to develop what I was enjoying into more than just a hobby. Initially I was nervous that taking on something like that would affect my recovery. However I decided that with my increased understanding of the condition I could try to very slowly turn my love of breakfast and cooking into something positive for me and my recovery.