Hi, my name’s Tina Marie Evans, I’m 32 years old and born and bred in the Gwendraeth Valley, West Wales. At the age of 16 I noticed something was up with my balance, I’d walk into friends and I found it hard to keep my balance whilst closing my eyes to pray in assembly. After some doctor appointments and a few tests I was given the diagnosis, Friedreich’s Ataxia. We had never heard of this rare condition, and being the typical Tina, at the time, I told my parents to do what they had to, I didn’t want to know, and just carried on with life.
I finished high school with three A-levels and went onto Aberystwyth University where I studied Theatre, Film and TV, made some amazing friends and had the best three years. I would consider myself to be more practical than academic, but due to increasingly losing my balance I was forced to stop acting and take on the behind the scenes role. I’m a positive person, and one of my key abilities is to see the positive in every situation. Having some experience in researching landed me my first job with BBC Wales as a researcher for the Education department then with Radio Cymru.
Working in Cardiff prompted my move to Cardiff, I lived here for 7 years and grew as a person. Before moving to Cardiff I had to battle with my pride on whether to give in to the wheelchair,, at the time ‘giving in’ is what it felt like. But I quickly became to realise that it was the best decision I could’ve made. Doing the small things like going to town or walk with friends became hard work due to tiredness and slowly my confidence dropped, but the wheelchair gave me back the freedom to get around and slowly brought back my confidence, it actually made me feel more able.
After four years at the BBC I moved onto Disability Wales. Here is where I learnt about the Social Model of disability, that my condition doesn’t disable me it’s the society around me that does, through negative attitude and poor access. This takes the self-blame away and is very empowering. Working here, fighting for the rights of disabled people built my confidence and made me more comfortable with my condition.
Like everyone in life, I was faced with some knockbacks and continued to push on. Until one day I realised I was struggling with mild depression, once I could admit this to myself my doing mode kicked in and I did everything possible to start healing. I did a lot of research, one Buddhist quote that always stuck with me was
‘if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got’.
Change was the answer.
This period was a blessing in disguise because it woke me up to a new lifestyle. After an 8-week Mindfulness course I decided it was time to move back to the Valley, I no longer had the need to please others, I rekindled my values of being around the people most important in my life.
As part of my healthy lifestyle, I’m studying Naturopathy, where we believe nutrition is medicine. I’ve been putting what I’ve learnt so far into practice over the past year and I feel more healthy and energised than ever, the results keep me motivated and I want to share this knowledge.
I am a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, I want to try whatever that is possible for me to do. I enjoy a challenge and getting out of my comfort zone and push myself. I have previously done the Swansea 10k on my handcycle and continue to train and search for the next challenge. I have been surfing, water skiing, rock climbing and I ski with Ski4all Wales every Wednesdays down in Pembrey. There’s still a lot to be done around access but we should also concentrate on the great work and progress that’s being done with many initiatives that are influencing change.
This will not be the same old blog about my struggles, I don’t want any pity. I want to share with you how I am able to keep a healthy mind, healthy body and healthy attitude.
Life is not about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to it