MS sufferer cites Shrewsbury College for turning her life around as she sets sail for new horizons

A Shropshire woman battling Multiple sclerosis (MS) has thanked Shrewsbury College for being the ‘turning point’ in her life.

Caroline Gudgion, aged 50, from Whitchurch, was first diagnosed with the disease in November 2013 and as a result of her diagnosis, her ability to work and socialise was drastically changed.

The mother of two, originally from Bedfordshire, left school and trained as a nurse in Barnet in 1985 – and then trained as a midwife at Luton & Dunstable Hospital in 1989.

Moving to Whitchurch in 2001, Caroline continued her work in the health industry as a Health Visitor in the Cheshire and Wrexham area. Over time Caroline began to feel unwell and after numerous tests and assessments, was diagnosed with MS in 2013.

 “I have relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis. My short term memory is poor due to my MS and I suffer with chronic fatigue,” she said.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system and over 100,000 people in the UK have it. Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help manage the condition and its symptoms. The cause of MS is unknown and currently, there isn’t a cure for it - although research is progressing fast.

Caroline’s health began to deteriorate, both mentally and physically over time and after reaching “rock bottom”, decided to pick herself up and through research found a Level 3 (A Level equivalent) Counselling Skills course at Shrewsbury College, something she had always had an interest in. Caroline applied for an Advanced Learner Loan to pay for the course – the loan is available to anyone over the age 19 and only needs to be paid back when recipients start earning over £21,000.

 “The last time I studied was 20 years ago at degree level. With my short term memory problems, it did take me longer to complete assignments. My lecturer Donna Morris was very supportive from day one. She gave me the encouragement and positive feedback I needed to keep going. I had very low self-esteem and confidence when I embarked on my course. Thanks to Donna and my fellow classmates I feel I am well on the way back to being the person I was,” she said.

“I gained so much confidence on this course and since completing it, I have enrolled to take part in the ‘Oceans of Hope, Sailing for Sclerosis Challenge’. In October, I am going to Barcelona to learn how to sail a yacht and hopefully qualify as a competent crew member.

“Attending college had become an important part of my life. Some weeks it was the only place I managed to go. Even when I was struggling with my mental and physical health I got there most weeks. Some weeks I found hard, both mentally, emotionally and physically but I always felt in a better place when I left. My husband has been my rock throughout my journey, taking care of me, encouraging and supporting me when I have been at my lowest ebb. He has stood by me and we celebrated our 28th Wedding Anniversary at the end of July this year. I am now also engaging in other activities to fill the gap left by finishing the course and I feel so much happier and fulfilled.

“Completing the counselling course was my turning point in life – accepting my diagnosis and moving forwards. It made me push myself to do things and as a result, I couldn’t be happier.”

Catherine Armstrong, Group Vice Principal for Curriculum Support & Business Development, said: “Caroline is an absolute credit to not only herself, but the College and I know her Counselling lecturer Donna Morris has endorsed her. She had some huge barriers to learning, which would prevent a lot of people from taking up a course like this one. It’s wonderful to hear how much she got out of it, not only educationally, but also through support from the College and her peers. She has now got some exciting goals in place and with that level of determination I am sure she will go on to be hugely successful.”

Caroline will be taking to the seas in October and will raise money for the Neuro Therapy Centre in Chester. The Centre supports people with neurological conditions including MS, Parkinson’s, ME and MND, and their carers from across Cheshire, North Wales and the Wirral. To find out more, visit www.neurotherapycentre.org

Caroline added: “I will donate all the sponsorship to the Centre because I started attending there every week to take part in a Physiotherapy Exercise Class and they have been a great support. I want to increase my overall well-being and physical health before I sail.”

Caroline sets sail on 9 October and will finish on 14 October. You can donate to her cause by visiting https://mydonate.bt.com/events/sailingchallenge

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