23/05/2013 05:20 BST | Updated 22/07/2013 06:12 BST

The Biggest Gift


No one envisages being chronically ill, unable to continue working, and eventually with no alternative, handing in one's notice. To imagine or think for one moment that something positive could possibly come out of this situation is beyond belief. But something very special and precious did emerge and only years later did I fully understand its importance. They say "As one door closes, another opens", and so from something bad, no longer able to continue working, came a great opportunity that might otherwise never have occurred.

As strange as it may sound, I received the biggest gift when I was forced to stop working due to a deterioration in my health some years ago. My girlfriends, all concerned for my welfare, asked me "What will you do with yourself all day?" Little did I know then, that my days would be filled and not a single moment would I regret retiring from work. I felt as if I had stepped off the fast track and left the rat race which ultimately proved far better for my health. I could finally stop running around like some deranged mouse on a wheel, take care of myself properly and concentrate on what was truly important in my life.

In today's society, we are all so busy, our tight schedules packed with appointments and activities leaving little or no time for ourselves not to mention spending important quality time with our families. I often wonder how this effects our children, undeniably shaping the minds and behaviour of future generations.

My daughter was 6 years old when I stopped working and this is the gift I speak of. Having only one child I knew the years would fly by all too quickly and before long she would be grown and living her own life. I didn't want to miss one moment of her childhood or waste the chance of spending time with her. So despite my ill health compelling me to give up a job that I enjoyed, there was a silver lining to this unexpected change in my life. When my daughter came home from school, the two of us would have lunch, I was able to help with homework, we'd keep busy with art projects and puzzles, take turns reading to each other, and spend quality time together; something I will treasure for the rest of my life. No one can take those memories away from me. Spending hours together each day whilst she was young, created a bond that can never be broken. Granted, the love of a mother for her child is unconditional, but when a closeness is established, a special relationship is formed.

When a child grows up in a household where one parent (or both) are disabled, without doubt, this inevitably has an effect upon the child who grows up very quickly, learning life skills and taking on responsibility. I have seen this in other families who are in similar circumstances, and there is a huge difference in maturity and abilities that most children with healthy parents are not exposed to. I sometimes feel guilty for all the activities I could not participate in, such as school trips or sports events, due my physical limitations. What she has gained however, is beyond measure; a wealth of experience that has prepared her for almost anything life should throw her way, making her a remarkable young woman.

Who would wish to be born with a chronic rare disease such as Gaucher, and as if that isn't enough, to then be diagnosed at a young age with Parkinson's? Nevertheless even under these circumstances that are beyond my control, I do have the power to decide whether to be bitter and drown in self pity, or to be cheerful and positive, making the most out of a bad situation. The choice is mine, and no doubt you can tell, I chose the latter. My latest book entitled "A Silver Lining" tells my personal story; how I grew up with Gaucher disease and handled diagnosis of Parkinson's. I am an author at heart, always with pen and pad in hand, but my most important job is being a wife and mother, which is where I found the silver lining in my life.