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My chronic illness won't stop me from reaching my goals!

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I recently had the chance to interview a young girl named 'Jess Etherington' and I learnt a lot.

Jess has been suffering from a chronic illness known as ME (Chronic fatigue syndrome) which has severely impacted her life over the last year.

Jess Etherington sat on a road

Here is the interview:

Before we get started, tell us a bit about yourself!

I’ve been doing karate for 6 and a half years, I’ve been competing for 4. I’ve been living with a chronic illness for 1 year now, I am 16 years old and from the UK.

Exactly what chronic illness do you have and how does it impact your life?

I was diagnosed with ME, Chronic Fatigue syndrome. It affected my whole life and for a couple of months I couldn’t do anything without feeling exhausted, training was put on hold and I struggled to go to the shops without having to recover for a couple of days.

Does this illness affect your diet and/or sleep? If so, how do you overcome those challenges?

Yes, I lost a lot of my appetite and had to just snack instead and eating full meals made me nauseous. My sleep was affected, I’d be going to sleep at 4-5 in the morning because I couldn’t sleep, and waking up at 1 a clock in the afternoon.

Related: Learn all about sleep

How has your lifestyle improved over the past few months? Have you been able to continue training as usual? Has your diet and sleep improved?

I was showing all the symptoms from February 2019, and it was a rocky road to building everything back up, I wanted to go back into doing 5 sessions a week and body could only do one so it was a long process. I just had to take at my own pace and concentrate on building myself back up instead of everything going on around me. I had a lot of support from those closest that helped massively. My training has nearly gone back to normal, I still struggle towards the end of sessions but for the most part, I’m back to normal. I increased my appetite and now it is as big as ever 😂. My sleep cycle has to be changed by 30-minute intervals and it has now changed to going to sleep around 11 and waking up at around 10 to 10:30.

why do you exercise? Why do you enjoy it?

I started karate because my brother wanted to do it and I joined in the first session and loved it. I liked turning up and having the really hard sessions and knowing I was improving bit by bit. I started going up the belts and loved the thrill of it. Competing has definitely helped my love of karate as I now have even more goals to reach.

Related: The 11 best back exercises without equipment

What belt have you currently got? What are some of the goals you have at the moment?

With being ill, my plan was to get my last coloured belt, brown-black and I was two weeks away from grading, and then I wanted to try for my black belt too, with everything changed, I am a brown white stripe now and I will be hopefully going for my brown-black in a couple of months assuming lockdown goes away. I would like to try for my black belt this year too but only if I’m ready! I have my dream set on being in the England squad, a long term goal, I also would like to medal at the English or British championships but we will see.

Are you currently training in lockdown?

My club has a zoom lesson a couple of times a week, and I have been doing a couple of extra sessions with other athletes doing seminar-type lessons. And I have been training on my own learning new katas to compete with.

Related: What are the 5 best exercises at home?

Is there anything else you'd like to add? Maybe a few words for those also suffering from a chronic illness?

I would like to say to anyone out there who thinks their dreams are now shattered and out of reach, that things do get better. If you have your heart set on it you will achieve it. Thank you.


Having a chronic illness really affected Jess's life and her ability to do what she loves, karate. However, with the support of those closest to her and her family, she has been able to push forward and nearly eliminate this illness. Don't let anyone or anything tell you you can't do something, Jess is living proof of this.

You can follow Jess on Instagram @_j.e.athlete

If you enjoyed this type of article, let me know and I'll make more of these in the future!

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