Paint­ing is the best medicine as artist adapts to life as an ‘old lady’

Tal­ented Frances is back ex­hibit­ing her work af­ter bat­tling painful con­di­tion

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - Advice - By Tracey Bryce TRBRYCE@SUNDAYPOST.COM

FORthe first 64 years of her life, Frances Innes had never fallen ill.

Aside from the odd case of the snif­fles, she was as fit as a fid­dle and in­cred­i­bly ac­tive for her age.

But al­most overnight, the grand­mother was struck down with a de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness.

Frances, who lives in Peter­head, was di­ag­nosed with polymyal­gia rheumat­ica, which causes pain, stiff­ness and in­flam­ma­tion in the mus­cles around the shoul­ders, neck and hips.

The con­di­tion, which only af­fects one in every 1200 peo­ple, is usu­ally found in the over-70s.

Frances, 65, said: “It started last sum­mer. One day I felt a bit stiff get­ting out of the car.

“And over the next few days it got pro­gres­sively worse, spread­ing to my legs and arms.

“Within around a week, my mo­bil­ity had al­most dis­ap­peared.”

The mum-of-two added: “It all hap­pened very quickly. One minute, I was per­fectly fine and the next I needed help to get out of a chair and couldn’t bend or stand for long.

“It was quite scary los­ing my in­de­pen­dence, and quite fright­en­ing be­com­ing so ill.

“I’d barely even had a cold up un­til then.

“I know I’m 65, but I al­ways con­sider my­self to be quite young and ac­tive for my age.

“Turn­ing into an old lady al­most overnight was quite fright­en­ing.”

Scans also re­vealed Frances, an artist, was suf­fer­ing from brit­tle bone ill­ness os­teo­poro­sis.

“It was quite an ad­just­ment. I went from be­ing quite in­de­pen­dent and walk­ing ev­ery­where to not re­ally be­ing able to go very far or do the things I would nor­mally do.

“I had to rely on peo­ple to help me in and out of a chair. I couldn’t ven­ture far and I was un­com­fort­able a lot of the time.”

The com­bi­na­tion meant she could barely paint – a hobby turned pro­fes­sion which she had en­joyed for decades.

“One of the hard­est things was not be­ing so able to paint,” she said.

“I do it most af­ter­noons at home and mostly seascapes, which in­volves spend­ing a lot of time on the floor splash­ing paint around.

“I was lim­ited to small ink draw­ings which didn’t take long to com­plete – and didn’t in­volve sit­ting for any length of time. Thank­fully I didn’t need to stop

com­pletely, but it was very frus­trat­ing. I just didn’t feel like me.”

Af­ter a few months, Frances was re­ferred to a spe­cial­ist who put her on to steroids.

And thank­fully her stiff­ness started to im­prove.

It took six long months, but even­tu­ally she started to get back to her nor­mal, ac­tive self.

“There were mo­ments when I won­dered when it would end,” said Frances.

Over the past few months, Frances has been able to throw her­self back into paint­ing.

She re­cently hosted a show­case of more than 100 pieces of her work through North East Open Stu­dios and will have an ex­hi­bi­tion at Banff Cas­tle in De­cem­ber.

“It’s so good to get back to it and feel like my­self again,” said Frances. “Host­ing the open event has given me a fo­cus and some­thing to work to­wards.

“Just see­ing my pieces on the wall is the best med­i­ca­tion you can get.”

Frances ad­mits not be­ing able to paint was one of the hard­est as­pects of the ill­ness

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