Gemma’s joyful journey
GEMMA Gray leads an extremely colourful life.
The 18 year old GOTAFE student is currently studying a Certificate IV in Disability, has also auditioned for the Ned Kelly film, done photoshoots, played sport, and has even made it through some competition rounds on The Voice.
“I went on The Voice in 2013 for the kid’s competition and actually got to the round just before the televised blind auditions,” Gemma said.
“It was an incredible experience.”
This year, Gemma has been getting busy with various jobs and activities to work on herself.
“I asked a photographer friend to do a photoshoot with me in March, so I could gain some more body confidence because I was lacking in that aspect,” Gemma said.
“After seeing the result, I was so happy, and definitely gained some more body positivity.”
More recently, a family friend sent Gemma the audition form for the film ‘The True History of the Kelly Gang’ which is being filmed in Wangaratta.
“I did drama throughout primary school and early high school and I’ve always enjoyed playing different characters and putting myself out there,” Gemma said.
Despite all these different aspects of her life, Gemma is not always up to taking things on.
For 12 years she has been suffering with Fibromyalgia Syndrome and chronic fatigue, but only put a name to the chronic illness a few years ago.
“Pretty much all my life we went to doctors who had no idea what was wrong, just that there was something wrong,” she said.
“Finally we went to a rheumatologist who told us it was Fibromyalgia Syndrome, which explains my chronic fatigue and other symptoms.
“There were days at school where I couldn’t hold a pen much longer because of the pain and fatigue, and eventually I had a year off in year 11 to work on my health.
“After that I went into the work force and have now worked over eight jobs including working in CSSD at the hospital for a school based apprenticeship, volunteering with interchange at UMFC for three years looking after kids with disabilities, and between Subway, McDonalds and now Big W, I was sometimes working two jobs a day.
“The symptoms are there on a daily basis but I pretend it’s not happening and do things out of my comfort zone, like leadership camps, studying and other things to keep myself going.
“In the morning I go to the gym, and if I don’t make it there I’ll go for a run before work.
“On bad days I’ll rest at home but try to keep myself moving if possible.
“I haven’t met many other people with the syndrome, but I saw a documentary about Lady Gaga who also has it and that was really cool to watch.”
Gemma continually posts about her struggle on social media, and she said this is a way to keep people updated and aware.
“Social media helps me raise awareness to friends and family, I could be looking perfectly fine but end up in hospital the same day, but they couldn’t see the symptoms,” she said.
“People have told me to get a disability pension but I’m so capable of so many things, I don’t need one.
“I always tell myself to keep my mind focused on something else.
“My motto is ‘observation plus action equals results’, so I observe something throughout the day, focus on that and create an action and you’ll get a result, it distracts the mind.
“There’s no cure but there are strategies to keep your mind off it.”
Gemma’s aspirations for her future include motivational speaking, which was further inspired after attending the Rotary-led leadership camp RYLA.
“I learnt so many positive things about myself at that camp and the motivational speakers opened my eyes to what I could do,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to be a motivational speaker and speak about daily life things, having lost members of family and friends to suicide and cancer.
“I’m not much of a speaker but when I get out there it’s amazing what comes out of my mouth.”
One of Gemma’s greatest achievements to date would be her determined and successful creation of the girls football team the Alpine Lions in Whorouly.
“I created Whorouly’s girls football, the Alpine Lions after the Maggie’s girl’s football team was unable to continue and we were left with no team to play with.
“I contacted the AFL to get onto grounds, coaches, umpires because we had the numbers, we just needed a club, which we got and we played clubs at Lavington, the Wodonga raiders and teams in Wahgunyah, Corowa, and Rutherglen.”
Gemma likes to think she’s made the most of her youth here in Wangaratta, and the young woman is such a strong example of someone finding the positives in a not-so-positive situation.
◆ STAYING STRONG: Gemma Gray is staying positive, busy and upbeat while living with Fibromyalgia Syndrome and chronic fatigue.
◆ RESILIENT: Gemma is always ready to face her next challenge.