A STUDENT has pledged to tackle misconceptions about an illness as she sets her sights on a sporting career.
Megan Crombie was diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy (ME) after she began to feel unwell just after her 15th birthday.
But while the condition continues to impact on her life, she is working hard to fulfil her dreams – and raise awareness of ME in the process.
The 17-year-old hopes to become a sports teacher and is studying a health and social care A-Level and a Btec in PE at Byron Sixth Form at St Bede’s in Peterlee.
The swimmer has already gained recognition for her voluntary work, with an achievement award for putting more than 400 hours into County Durham Sport’s School Sports Partnership sessions.
Megan’s doctors initially thought her tiredness was down to glandular fever or Lyme disease.
She said: “I was really devastated. It was just after my 15th birthday and I just started to get really exhausted.
“It went on for about nine months and I was finally diagnosed in the October.
“Having ME has affected me in lots of different ways, especially with my work.
“I had it during Year 10 and managed to get 10 GCSEs but I’ve really struggled at college.
“We didn’t realise until about a month before I was diagnosed that it could be ME and we’d never heard of it before.
“There’s no treatment for it unfortunately. It’s just trying to cope with it, because I’m going to have it for a good few years.”
Among the issues Megan has faced is trying to get people to understand how it affects her.
ME is regarded as the “invisible illness” because of its unseen symptoms, which can include problems with the brain and central nervous system and sleep disturbance.
Megan took part in Miss Durham as part of her campaign.
She said: “It’s a mystery disease and that’s why I wanted to do Miss Durham. Although I didn’t win, I really wanted to raise awareness of it.
“It was a brilliant experience.
“I’ve had problems at college because my friends can’t see it.
“One day I’ll seem absolutely normal, but still feel unwell, and the next I’ll be really ill.
“There was one stage where no one would believe me and I would say ‘I can’t come out, I really can’t,’ because I wouldn’t know how well I would be the next day.”
Although she did not get placed from the shortlist of 17 entrants in Miss Durham, Megan, from Blackhall, said she would love to take part again in the “real-life Miss Congeniality”.
Mum Michelle, 39, a midwife, dad David, 43, a civil servant, sister Jessica, 20, and brother Aiden, 12, are delighted she has taken a positive attitude.
Michelle said: “It has been a difficult time for all of us as she has struggled to come to terms with her change of lifestyle.
“We are really proud of her efforts in trying to help others and raising awareness of the difficulties that young people with ME face.”