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You’ve got a friend in me – inspired fundraising run

A mid-shot of Beth, looking at the camera with one hand under her chin.

Narrated and introduced by Beth Evans, editor of Pain Matters.

First published in Pain Matters 85.

In November of last year, Liz, 33, ran the Brighton 10k to fundraise for Pain Concern. She was inspired to do so because of her friendship with Vicki, 33 an office administrator for Pain Concern who has lived with persistent pain for many years.

I sat down with the two of them to chat about how the run, the supportive nature of friendship and what Liz doing the run meant to the two of them.

Beth: How long have you guys been friends for? How did you meet?

Liz: We were discussing this. We’re like, how long has it been? We met in second year of university which would have been 13 or 14 years ago now, which seems mad that we’ve known each other that long! We met through some friends of friends, and we all ended up living together in our third year. We kept in touch over the years after we graduated.

B: What university did you both go to?

Vicki: University of Nottingham.

Liz: Yeah, this is the clever one, she did maths!

B: So you’ve known each other a long time then?

V: Yeah…and many more to come.

B: When did this journey begin? When did you start having these conversations and how did it manifest into running a fundraising 10k for Pain Concern?

L: I’ve been doing a bit of running since having Jake just to get back into physical fitness and it’s good for my mental health. I’ve been talking to Vicki throughout her volunteering at Pain Concern and then more recently having a role there and appreciating how important it is for Pain Concern to continue doing what it does. I thought there’s a 10K that I can do to sort of challenge myself and give me something to work towards, but I can also do what I can to try and help Pain Concern at the same time and raise some money.

B: How do you both feel on the run up (pun intended) to the 10k? What are your hopes, any dreads?

L: The dreads one is easy because it’s November and I’m going to be running along Brighton sea front and at the moment we’ve got that Storm Ciarán here. So I’m really worried it’s going to shut it down with rain or it’s just really windy and I’ll be running into the wind, which won’t be fun but hopefully I can raise some good amount of money which will be useful for Pain Concern. I’m just hopeful that I can finish and in a good time as well.

V: I’m feeling excited for this because I know that she enjoys running and it’s great that she’s getting back into something that she’s enjoying. And I think about the training, so recently going from a 5K to training to a 10K, I think that’s great.

B: How do you both feel about it in terms of supporting Pain Concern?

V: Liz is great fun and it just generally shows how much of a supportive friend she is. The fact that she’s willing to do it. But if I’m honest, it doesn’t surprise me because I know she’s amazing. But yeah, very grateful.

L: Yeah, I feel quite nervous coming up to a race. But on the day, when you’re running and if you’re doing it for a good reason, you can think about that as you’re going along and it sort of stretches you from the “ooh, I can’t breathe!” to the “yeah, there’s a good reason that I’m doing this.” That’ll get me through the finish line.

B: What can you tell us about your journey with pain, Vicki?

V: So my pain began literally overnight 24/7 in 2013. I had many years where I’d seen various different specialists but didn’t have a diagnosis; I had a lot of experience of healthcare professionals disbelieving me and making me feel like it was in my head. At one point I was actually referred to psychiatry but was discharged from them immediately. They said it wasn’t the right place to be.

Over the years I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. I’ve had a few surgeries for endometriosis and two years ago I had a hysterectomy for a condition called adenomyosis.

It was a long recovery but since then, working on self-management and then therapy to help with the mental health side of things. I’ve accepted the pain and through accepting it, that’s helped me move on in life and get back into sort of, I guess what you would call a more “standard life”; working and not everything being affected by pain. Difficulty leaving the house, I don’t have that anymore. I feel like I don’t see pain as my identification anymore, which I did before.

L: I’d like to add to that because of my perspective, living with Vicki at university and knowing Vicki then. We had a good time; we would go out and we would drink and dance. And then I remember back in 2013 when she started getting the first symptoms and I think you were saying you got pain in your hands.

Then sort of gradually seeing it; her telling me about it progressing and you can’t really do anything to help and it just gradually getting worse. And then we’d be talking, and she’d be saying how she’s been going back and forth to specialists and GPs and it would be a very long and frustrating process and you can’t do anything.

We would try and meet up near Sheffield and it would be “how’s your pain today, Vicki? How are you feeling?” And it may be that we don’t meet today, we’ll catch up another time and then if we could meet up, it was really difficult to see Vicki not being able to do much because the pain was so bad that she just needed to sit down, and that was quite upsetting as a friend watching her go through that.

It’s been really great to see her gradually, like she said, getting her life back on track and back together and now seeing her being able to do things, go to the theatre and come and visit us in Brighton. That’s been really nice. It’s been a long journey for her and I think if I was in that situation, I don’t think I would have been as resilient and as strong as she has and as positive.

V: That’s really kind Liz. I’m not just saying that you honestly did help. I always find as well as the support you’re fun and upbeat, finding humour. For me to see the funny side of things has really helped. I think humour is a good, well at least for me, coping mechanism.

B: If you could be at the finish line with Liz, what would you say as she crosses that line?

V: Well, other than the obvious of well done and thanks for raising money for Pain Concern to just say thank you generally, she’s helped me a lot living with pain. I’m in a lot of a better position now in terms of self-management and being back in work and exercising, but just generally throughout the years when I’ve had a tough time, often with pain, you end up losing friendship.

So, for example, you might not be able to attend events, so people stop inviting you and you just generally lose touch. But that’s not been the case at all with Liz. She’s always been really understanding and supportive. So, I just wanted to show my appreciation to her because I really do value it.

L: Ooh, that’s lovely. Thank you.

Liz completed her run and raised £550 for Pain Concern – if you’ve been inspired by Liz and Vicki’s story, please consider fundraising or donating to Pain Concern:

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