During the past five years, I have been on a journey which I was not sure would have a happy ending and there came points where I worried I would never exercise again.
To me, such a reality was unthinkable and devastatingly painful. I am also a really private person who keeps things to herself, her family and her friends. I don't like to cause a fuss.
My husband was the one who thought I should share this with you and be proud of my journey – a journey that he has been a huge part of.
I haven't even begun yet and I can feel myself welling up. With yesterday the 25th July being my 48th birthday I can honestly say that I feel incredible and am in the best shape I have been since that dreadful day on 22nd July 2008. My stomach still churns at the memories and at the knowledge of how lucky I am to be here today.
I have always had a passion for health and fitness and since I used to work as a professional dancer, it was only natural for me to take qualifications in fitness and nutrition. It was the best thing I ever did and little did I know it would come to help me more than I ever would have believed.
I was terrified of the academic papers and exams but I am proud to say that I got 98%. My examiner said in her 22 years of examining it was the highest paper she had marked. I shed many a tear when my results came through.
I was someone who hated school. I didn't fit in and was more interested in what time my next dance or singing class was than doing my times tables! Boy, I could tap and pirouette for England! That was all I really cared about.
I really came into my own at stage school at the age of 14 and I felt a huge surge of relief on my first day. I had found where I belonged and I was with people who understood me and also wanted to work in the profession that I was also so passionate about.
I couldn't wait to go every morning – it was the first time I actually laughed at school. My school bag was packed with tap shoes, ballet shoes, dance clothes galore and scores from all the latest musicals. It was bliss!
I feel it is so important to be allowed to be who you want to be as it really does carve out who you become later in life. I remember Brian Conley at school use to do fantastic impressions of all the teachers – we had so much fun!
But let me take you back to July 22nd 2008.
I left home fit and healthy on a beautiful sunny day with my birthday just a few days away. I had been invited to the Elemis Spa for the afternoon and that morning was my last shift at QVC before my birthday on the 25th July. I had a beautiful time at the spa with Keeley (an Elemis guest ).
I left to drive home with the sun still shinning. I was feeling so chilled and really looking forward to getting home to my hubby and Scruncher (Mr B hadn't entered our lives at this point).
I had picked up my new car in April and I loved it. It was a convertible but I had decided to keep the roof on it on this day – a bit of a weird decision considering the beautiful weather.
But clearly it was meant to be when you hear the rest of the story. I was 15 minutes away from home, when I looked to my left and saw a huge lorry getting rather close. Before I knew it, I heard a huge bang and my car starting spinning down the motorway. I can't tell you what I was thinking – all I remember was holding onto the steering wheel thinking "Oh my god – this is it…"
My whole life flashed in front of me. The screeching from my wheels (I discovered later from the bare metal on my back wheel) was like something out of a Bond movie. I hit the central reservation, the car span round and then I realised I was going down the motorway the wrong way. I then hit another barrier before I came to a screeching halt.
All I can remember was hearing a very kind gentleman screaming at me to get out of my car. How everyone else had managed to avoid hitting me I will never ever know. My car was taken to the hard shoulder and the gentleman and two very kind ladies stayed with me until the police and ambulance arrived.
My tyre had literally exploded and I was spinning on metal. The lorry that I thought I was getting closer to was actually me swerving towards the lorry. My car is so solid I didn't realise it actually saved my life.
The police and ambulance crews were amazing. I couldn't even remember my husband's phone number as my body had gone into complete shock. I had never even had a bump in a car, let alone turning one into a write-off! This was true Franks' style I can tell you.
My husband arrived and all I kept saying was "Look at my new car…!"I was checked over in the ambulance and no-one could believe I had no injuries. I was fit, strong and healthy and my body had successfully got through this horrendous experience.
Weirdly, I have never worn the shoes or the track suit I had on that day ever again. They make me feel sick – even five years later. The next few days were a bit of a blur and I was advised to go to the hospital to get everything double checked but I seemed to be in great shape.
I really wasn't in the mood for birthday celebrations but Larry did as he always did and made it a truly special day under the circumstances. I took a few days off of work to get my confidence back getting into a car.
I was shaking and analysing everything on the road. I couldn't believe it when a guy went into the back of my hire car at a roundabout because he was on his mobile phone. I was furious! Thankfully he only damaged the number plate.
Eventually my confidence started to come back and all was looking good. We had a fabulous summer and I was putting it all behind me.
It was a cold morning one day three months later in October. As I had been on the late shift at 'Q' my husband kissed me goodbye as he left early for work. I woke up properly around ten and got out of bed and just collapsed. You guessed it – all the car symptoms I thought I had escaped had come to haunt me.
This was only the beginning of my long and determined journey to get where I am today. I managed to crawl downstairs on my hands and knees to get to my mobile phone. I spoke with my doctor who saw me immediately.
I had sickness, horrendous ear pain, poor vision and a violent headache. We managed to get the sickness under control and I had to do exercises twice a day to get myself back on my feet. I had to retrain my brain to recognise that walking in a straight line was correct and that standing up was a natural position for my body.
I also suffered intervals of severe sweating that were completely out of my control. This made me feel so sick and unwell that the colour would completely drain from my face. I would have to go to bed to sleep it off until the next time.
The episodes were so unpredictable. I could be in a restaurant, out with friends, on air at QVC. I learnt how to cope with it and managed it very carefully over the next few years. I remember being on air many a time and I am sure guests thought I had gone completely weird.
One of my worst experiences was when I was on air with Michelle Hope. All of a sudden the symptoms came over me. I almost fell off my chair with the dizziness and sickness. All I could see was Michelle spinning around.
I just focused on her and managed to get through the hour. I went to an ENT specialist and all my results came back clear. I was even sent to a tropical disease specialist due to the severe sweating. My lowest point was the day I went back to my doctor and asked if I could go and see a neck specialist or a neurologist as I now had neck pain and severe headaches along with all the other symptoms. But all my tests came back clear.
The doctor knelt down, tapped me on the knee and said "Mrs Franks, there are times in our life when we have to understand that we may have to live with certain symptoms and accept them." I was so shocked and in so much pain that I left the surgery very upset and angry.
It was pouring down with rain and another patient had been careless when reversing in the car park and smashed my rear light and hit another car. I sat in the car and just cried: was I going to have to accept this pain for the rest of my life and never exercise again?
Needless to say I never went back as a patient to this GP – except to complain after we discovered the causes of my suffering and I was once again fit and healthy (no thanks to this GP). When I went back I was surprised to see the door still hanging in the frame after how hard I had slammed it when I left incensed by the doctors attitude. Funny now that I look back, I think it was a slam of determination.
I woke the next day and decided to do my own research. "Surely," I thought, "Knowing the body as I do from my fitness qualifications, I could make some headway. I have learnt no-one knows your own body better than you do and if something doesn't feel right, it is best not to take no for an answer."
If I had have listened to that GP I honestly believe that my symptoms would have restricted my life, my career and my ability to be as fit and healthy as I am today. My research paid off and four people became very prominent in my life; these friendships developed in addition to one particular piece of fitness equipment that became my saviour and my best friend to this very day. But more about my Pilates machine later as well as Marjolene's help and inspiration.
These four significant people were: my neurologist, my health specialist who had worked with car accident patients, my osteopath and my cranial therapist. I spent an entire day with my neurologist doing every test possible to rule out any hidden nasties and to try and work out what was causing the sweating issues.
We had a few scary moments with some of the tests being halted due to my blood pressure dropping far too low. I even did shows at QVC with monitors attached to me that kept beeping at certain intervals ( I did warn the sound department)! It was all rather exhausting and daunting but I knew I was in great hands.
Test after test came back clear but the symptoms just never subsided, so we decided to all work closely together. My consultants worked tirelessly consulting each other after each of my treatments. With perfect scans and plenty of results to work from, we decided to concentrate on working out where the symptoms were coming from, even aggravating them to get a source.
Suffering through pain, sweating, sickness, poor vision during hours of travelling eventually proved worth it. Our conclusion was that I had sustained a rotator cuff injury, and that ear and neck pain was causing the vertigo, and the sweating was caused by neck pain and from pressure on the Vegas nerve.
I was also diagnosed with a form of whiplash – something that can't really be officially diagnosed as such, since thousands of sufferers have a varying degree of symptoms after spinning around in a car accident. Further to this, the top of the neck is quite dangerous and risky to treat and not many consultants will take the risk. My neurologist is quite simply a genius.
I want to thank him for his patience and friendship and for truly understanding how important it was for me to get fit again in order to be able to enjoy my life again. We did laugh one day as we couldn't believe some of the diagnoses the doctors gave – you name it I had it! I am sure they say things just to shut you up when professionals can't actually find a diagnosis. I had them removed from my medical record.
He gave me a note of inspiration and kind words on my determination that remain private. But I look at it every day in my office by my computer and feel proud I never gave in. (I took many a trip to the Lindo wing at St. Mary's hospital where our royal baby was born this week – even bizarrely on the 22nd July, the same day as my accident!) So lovely to have great news on a day that normally makes me feel sick and is so prominent in my diary with bad memories.
To my cranial therapist: you are a genius. You went above and beyond the call of duty and remained loving and caring to the end, revealing a talent I could only ever dream of. You are truly very special.
To my osteopath: thanks for the pain, tears and laughter. Your incredible talent and sense of humour got me through the rough times. We often put the world to rights – heaven help the universe we would have created! We would laugh so loud sometimes that patients in the waiting room would give us very weird looks on my departure.
Susan, if it wasn't for your experience with car accident patients and referrals I wouldn't be writing this blog. You have a special place in my heart.
Thank you to my gorgeous husband, my love, my life. As it shows in the picture above, this was a beautiful day to celebrate. You have so much patience, you drove me to countless appointments and did whatever it took to help me. You make me laugh every day and I couldn't have done it without you. Most importantly thank you for letting me be me.
Thank you to my dear friends and family for supporting me all the way.
Marjolene you know I love you dearly and YES we really do think we are superwomen. Our tears of laughter and friendship are something I will always treasure and your support and advice has been invaluable. I sent Marjolene a picture of my fitness progress (as on the left here) and she uses it to inspire her clients.
My return to physical fitness is all thanks to her, my determination and my beloved machine (pictured left) and I am so excited to be launching the Aeropilates TSV on 28th July with Marjolene. This could be your chance to change your body and your way of life. We all have different goals in life whether it's running for bus, a bike ride, playing with the children or running a marathon. What's yours?
Pilates could make all the difference. For me it has made my life complete! I was 48 on Thursday 25th July and I am so proud of how I look. I have only shared these pictures with a few people but when I look back at my journey I get overwhelmed at what I see now.
Fitness is a huge part of my life and I just don't know what an earth I would have done if I could never have worked out ever again. I hope this has inspired many of you to stay in great health and never take no for an answer.
Lots of love, health and happiness,