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Carlby woman carries out challenge for Astriid every day throughout July

Completing a month-long charity challenge will mean so much to one woman, who is battling chronic illnesses.

Determined Deborah Bircham isn’t just wearing a charity T-shirt for her 2km per day challenge, she is living proof of the help the charity - Astriid - is aimed at providing.

Not only does Deborah live with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and Lyme disease, but she is also battling a rare auto-immune disorder which causes her to severely react to many commonplace foods and chemicals.

Deborah Bircham is raising money for Astriid through a month long challenge. (49194687)
Deborah Bircham is raising money for Astriid through a month long challenge. (49194687)

She said: “I’ve been quite unlucky with my health in recent years and when the Lyme disease was missed it became chronic. I was bitten by a tick in 2018 and became catastrophically ill overnight with all sorts of weird and strange symptoms from seizures to heart problems. I felt dreadfully ill.

“I lost my memory and I was so mentally incapacitated that I couldn’t even complete a jigsaw aimed at eight year olds.

“It wasn’t until December 2020 that I saw someone who immediately told me I have all of the symptoms of Lyme disease and the co-infections, and I tested positive.

“Unfortunately, if you don’t treat it straight away with antibiotics it becomes systemic and spreads. They do say you can’t really ever talk about being cured as it hides in the body. It’s more a case of managing and keeping on top of it for your whole life.”

The health complications became incapacitating for Deborah, who lives in Carlby. She was a member of the curatorial team at Stamford Museum for nearly 20 years before health issues forced her to give up work.

But help from Astriid was on hand. She said: “It was one of the worst things - losing my job through my health.

“It’s a devastating experience which really affects your self-esteem, your self-worth and your identity.

“When you become so poorly that you can’t hold down a nine to five job any longer you think ‘what am I going to do? How can I ever get back to work?’

“Astriid works to match up people with work which they can do around their illness, and it gives people so much.

“You feel part of something again and remember the person you used to be. The skills you used to use at work that you haven’t been able to use are still there.

“It’s marvellous when people do find work through Astriid and are able to earn a living for themselves like everyone wants to.”

Deborah is now working with Astriid to coach people to find their confidence and feel that they are valuable, skillful people again.

But, in the evenings she is currently embarking on her daily walks around Carlby to raise funds for the charity by helping its supporters to travel 40,075km - the equivalent distance of the circumference of the world over the month.

Deborah said: “I wanted to do something and I wanted to make it into a challenge but I’m really not very well.

“I thought 2km was possibly doable but it is harder than I thought it was going to be. I don’t recover enough energy between each day so it’s cumulatively becoming quite difficult but I’m determined I’m going to do it - nothing will stop me.

“I’ve raised more than £500 already and I never expected to even make £100 so I can’t believe it.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/deborah-bircham

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