Testimonials & Our Founders Story
Meet Emily – the founder of COPE – and weight-battler, pain-fighter extraordinaire and passionate teacher since 2010.
This is her story and her reality. Her reality of heart-wrenching pain of both the physical and the emotional kind. Her reality of battling with herself and of battling through specialist appointments and consultants and advice and judgement and frustration and sheer dread. Her reality of building self-compassion where there was once self-hatred. Her reality of hope and belief growing where there was once darkness and feeling lost. Her reality of PCOS, how it affected her, how it continues to affect her and how she overcame the difficult and dark times to bloom and blossom and flourish and begin to feel positive and hopeful.
This is how COPE began; a way to reach out to other women experiencing similar and show that there really is a way forwards…
Let’s rewind to secondary school – when life should be fun and bright and full of hope and laughter and freedom and joy. Emily started her periods aged 11 – and from the very beginning, they were painful, heavy; so much to deal with for such a young age. Emily spent her school years leading a healthy lifestyle – ultra-active, no snacking, a good relationship with herself and food. But, despite this, Emily wore a size 16-18 clothes. She was unhappy.
Over the years, Emily made many, many visits to GPs to discuss her periods; the pain, how heavy her flow was but nobody seemed to understand just how much of an impact this was having on her life. It was excruciating.
Finally, aged 19 – a breakthrough! Emily visited a GP who listened – heard – and offered an injection to induce early menopause. Oh, the relief! She could finally live life with freedom and hope and joy – without relying on painkillers, hot water bottles, electric blankets and more to enable to function on just a basic level. Life was great! Her social life flourished, she blossomed as her self-esteem grew, her university life got back on track, her passion for music came back to life and she slimmed down to a size 12-14. Things were great – Emily was riding the wave of what life should be like and she was loving every second of it!
And then it happened. Other knock back. The GP raised a concern about Emily’s bone density – a known side effect from the injections she’s been receiving. The injection was put on hold and life went back to absolute pain and darkness. How unexpected this was – and unwelcome too.
Emily found herself at A&E many times – all due to episodes of her passing out with the level of pain she was experiencing. The levels of pain that she experienced were indescribable – her husband soon came to expect nothing more than a nod or a shake of the head in replace of conversation. Out of body experiences were a regular occurrence for Emily as her body battled to deal with the pain that her body was putting her through.
Weeks were spent at hospital as she watched her friends and family, moving on with their lives; their relationships blossoming and their careers blooming. So much pain – both physical and emotional.
Emily decided to seek further help for what seemed to be happening again. She saw a specialist and finally had an answer for what had caused her so much pain, so much heartache; the frustrations and the difficulties were being caused by PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome). This news came as both an absolute blow and as a blessing too; she had answers, a reason for all she’d been through up to now. All this time, all those moments of being in excruciating pain now could be explored, looked into and understood; by both Emily and her consultant.
Three weeks of 4 were spent huddled down in bed, riding the waves of pain that crashed over her with every movement. Following the specialist’s advice, she was put back on the injection she’d had previously and was oh-so hopeful that this could help her return to feeling great again.
Alas, this wasn’t to be. She gained 3 stones and felt her mental health deteriorating at a rapid rate – at her heaviest, Emily was a size 20-22. Everything just seemed so, so difficult.
After further investigation (and a laparoscopy), she received another diagnosis; this time, of endometriosis. Emily was heart broken. She hated her body for what it was putting her through. This was entirely new to Emily – she had no idea what this condition was, how it might affect her and life, her future. However, now she had an opportunity to learn about and understand how her body was behaving – and ways in which she might be able to help it.
She thought about what the medical professionals had told her over the years; they’d all advised her to lose weight, move more. What they’d all been focused on was the very thing that she so struggled to do – how could she lose weight and move more if she couldn’t even walk without pain ripping through her body.
Emily had always had a difficult relationship with food – this reached a new low at this point. The constant advice to lose weight, IBS diagnoses and the heartache of her body just feeling broken began to create a deeper issue. She began feeling disgusted at the thought of eating – struggled to look at it, never mind touch it, taste it. And all the while, anti-depressants were suggested… over and over.
Emily, at this point, was not being heard. She wasn’t depressed. She was in pain! She didn’t need anti-depressants. She needed this pain to be managed !
Her consultant told her she needed to learn to live with it. (Emily, at this point, knew she needed someone to listen, to help, to be there – she changed her consultant). The following consultants were good – provided support and warmth, kindness and 2 more laparoscopies. However, in hindsight, Emily can see that she just needed a little bit more information; perhaps for them to share a little bit more about what was happening to her and how her body was being affected.
They just didn’t go into the detail that Emily felt she needed to be able to understand the diagnoses that she’d been given.
During a 4th laparoscopy, while endometrial tissue was being removed, yet another diagnosis was made – adenomyosis. The endometrial tissue had spread to her uterus.
Let’s look at Emily at this point in her life.
She’d lost her job as a result of her conditions.
She was virtually housebound.
Her pain levels were excruciating.
Her life-long dream of having children was put on hold.
A dark, swirling depression had encompassed her.
She felt useless and hopeless; with a life full of “can’ts”, she began to spiral downwards.
Times were hard but, in true Emily style, she battled through, refusing to give way.
In 2017, she had a 5th laparoscopy and subsequently met another specialist. This one was different. He listened intently, understood what she was explaining. As he offered her a (valuable) piece of advice (lose weight), she felt her eyes roll and her heart break as yet again, she was given exactly the same piece of advice that had been repeated over and over…
But…this time, it was different.
He took his time and explained why it was so important; he listened to Emily’s concerns, how this same thing had been repeated and how she was tired of hearing it.
He reassured her and gave her clear, concise information on why it could possibly be the best thing she could ever do – the science behind the suggestion. Emily, at this point, committed to losing weight (using the knowledge that the specialist had imparted along with passion and drive and hope too).
Throughout all of this, Emily had longed for a family and at each appointment she attended, the reality of it seemed to be slipping away. Until she was told that there might be a chance – a slim chance but hope all the same – that IVF could be an option for her. In order for this to happen, she had to reduce her BMI from 35 to 30 – and so there we had it. Yet another reason for her to find a way to lose weight and start living her life again.
In time, with determination, focus and self-belief, very, very steadily, Emily began to feel differently; both physically and emotionally. Only tiny changes, but something was happening. She began feeling good again. She had self-belief – and yes, of course, it wavered every now and then – she’s human! However, Emily made a promise to herself.
“Everyday, I’ll get up. Everyday, I will shower. Everyday, I will dress.”
Even just the thought of this was almost impossible – on an emotional and physical level; getting up meant facing the day, getting in the shower meant facing the body that she viewed as a failing body.
And through the pain, the difficult times, that’s exactly what she did. However impossible it felt as she opened her eyes in the morning, she dragged herself up, into the shower and over to her wardrobe. For 2 weeks – 14 days – she proved to herself over and over that actually, maybe she could do this after all?!
And after that 2 weeks of managing everyday’s target, she felt on top of the world. So she added another…
“Everyday, I’ll get up and I’ll go for a walk to the end of the road”.
It’s not a particularly long road but the dark times she’d experienced made stepping over the threshold into the big, wide world an impossible feat.
She reminded herself that for 14 days, she’d proved she could meet a target, follow the focus, chase the dream. She believed she could. And do you know what?
Over the next few months, Emily continued to focus – she had a goal in mind and as time went on, it became inconceivable to her that she’d fail.
She had determination. It was there now and there was no going back.
All because of the baby steps she’d taken all those months ago – to get up, showered and dressed each day.
(Of course, let’s not forget those days that she had to haul herself out of bed; when she felt like giving up because she was tired, in pain, struggling mentally, losing belief and focus. It was at these moments that Emily had to learn how to dig deep and find her inner strength).
And she managed it.
She stepped it up a notch. She’d always been active as part of her work however, her weight stayed the same.
She took a moment to look back to her school days. A vague memory of her enjoying running seemed to come to the fore and she wondered if maybe, this was what she might have been working towards, without even knowing. She’d never been the fastest, but to Emily it wasn’t about speed; it was about progress, it was about moving forwards.
That walk to the end of the road soon turned to a jog…which turned to a run…and it went further and faster…and she was loving this…!
Next step – the gym.
Yet another challenge for her; and so she did as she’d done before.
“Everyday, I will get up. Everyday, I will shower. Everyday, I will dress. Everyday, I will GYM!”
That first visit – nervous butterflies as she approached the door; proud and terrified in equal measure. She put her shoulders back, took a deep breath and pulled open the door.
She’d done it.
And that first 5 minutes on the treadmill? Exhilarating.
Emily soon made firm friendships with a warm and supportive group at the gym – they offered advice, they cheered her on, they were patient and very soon, she was loving it!
5 minutes on the treadmill turned to 10, to 15, to 20… yet again, she’d started with a small goal and the rewards were coming in thick and fast.
(Just as when all this started for her, Emily had moments of “I can’t do this” but she reminded herself of her successes over the last few months and used those to help support and drive her forwards.)
And, during the next 18 months, after a couple of trips, Emily reached (and stayed at) her goal of 30 BMI. She’d done it. By no means was it easy and a couple of times, she slipped to above 30 but in time, she kept it stable. She’d only gone and done it!
There was just one last hurdle to go before Emily could start feeling like a true human being again – and that was her relationship with food.
Throughout all of this, the way she viewed food had become damaged, unhealthy – she needed to find a way to love and enjoy it. She started looking into nutrition. She began learning about how the body works, what it needs to work, why it needs more of some food groups and less of others. She began feeling confident that the choices she made around food were great ones and as she did, her relationship healed.
In time, steadily and with setbacks along the way, (she’s human, remember!), Emily began to feel good around food – able to eat out with her lovely husband comfortably. despite her self-confidence growing, immense pride in herself for taking the choices she was making, there were moments when, inexplicably, she felt like giving up. To this day, Emily can’t see why – it doesn’t seem very logical – but it always seemed like an option to her. Despite these feelings of wanting to give up, Emily continued to make the choices that would keep her feeling great – exhausting though it was sometimes – and today…?
Emily is a very happy size 10; with a great relationship with food and exercise and more importantly, with herself.
During her time of experiencing the highs and lows of this, Emily’s story is so, so familiar with many women across the world – not being listened to; not being heard. Yet, with that glimmer of hope she had and that very first decision of “Everyday, I’ll get up”, she found the way and continues to lead her life with happiness and joy, balance and self-acceptance.
Emily has spent time thinking best to help other people. She’s thought about what would’ve helped her more than anything as she battled, fought, struggled, wrestled with the pain, the heartache. Each time she comes to the same conclusion. Hope.
She managed to dig deep and find it but feels that life would’ve been much better juggled had she had someone to help her along the way…which is where COPE comes in for you…
Emily is available for media interviews, talks and pieces to camera about her experiences. Media enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org