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I Volunteer: Mandy Lawrence

My first guest blogger for the final day of Volunteers Week is Mandy. Mandy has Gastroparesis and although she initially struggled with how her diagnosis had changed her life, she eventually realised she had a “new normal”, and part of this this new normal is the voluntary work she does with Devon & Cornwall Police. Mandy can be found on Twitter @Micante13Mandy

My name is Mandy Lawrence and in September 2015, after 6 months of non invasive and invasive tests (including the discovery of a benign tumour on my liver as an ‘incidental’ find!) a consultant informed me I had a diagnosis of Idiopathic Gastroparesis.

His words to me were ‘You will struggle so go have the best life you can, while you can’.

Idiopathic means cause unknown, Gastroparesis means paralysed stomach. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, bloating, weight loss. The list is quite long as each individual has different symptoms.

Three months later, the company I had worked at for 25 years, ill health retired me. I was lost and scared. My job was my life. I had no partner, no children, I lived alone in a different county to my family, I lost my confidence, my workmates were my friends (99% of them abandoned me) and of course I had this chronic illness I knew nothing about.

After copious amounts of research into my illness and reaching out to support groups, the fighting spirit returned. I now control my illness not the other way round. I realised I have a new normal, a new life and confidence was returning. I looked on the Internet at Devon & Cornwall Police website for volunteer roles as I’ve always supported the police. I saw one for a vehicle checker so I went for it!! I had an interview and now perform vehicle checks for the response teams on a Sunday morning along with another chap.

I know my limits but the GP doesn’t stop me as long as I’m sensible. My mental health is at an all time high, I get some exercise, I feel part of the wider police family, I am constantly thanked for what I do, I get to meet lots of different people and I give to the community. My family are relieved as I am a lot happier, I’m chatty, positive and will advise anyone in the same position – Just go for it! Go make a difference!

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