A WOMAN who was diagnosed with ME in 2015 and was left bedbound at times wants to give people suffering from the illness hope.

Ally Redshaw-Boxwell, founder of CompassionART which is an art project for people who are living with long-term chronic illness in Northumberland, was diagnosed with the illness in the summer of 2015, after beginning to feel unwell at the end of 2013.

Ally had set up Hexham- based charity Dilly Arts in 2011. She was a single mum at the time.

In her previous arts development roles, Ally had worked with prisoners and she set up the company with the aim of continuing this work with prisoners and their families.

They ran various projects related to this, as well as other such as Allendale Mini Festival of Movement and Dance.

Ally had her third child in 2012 and said she “never stopped”.

When she became unwell, Ally said: “Everything had to come to a halt. My health got really bad, to the point where I was bedbound.”

Ally said she broke down in tears after receiving the diagnosis.

She said as there is little research on the disease, “it was like being thrown into a deep, dark well.”

“I guess eventually what you have to do is accept it but that’s not an easy thing to do.”

She launched the first round of CompassionART sessions in 2017. Ally devised the idea and applied for funding for the project, but was unable to attend any of the sessions due to her illness.

“For me to work with people who have hidden disabilities, it was just the next step,” Ally said.

March last year, just before the pandemic hit, was when Ally started feeling a lot better. She credits a diet helping “significantly” with her illness.

Ally and her family went on holiday to the Lake District, where she was able to go horse riding and swim.

She said the pandemic has “opened up people’s eyes” to how people with chronic illnesses live, often unable to leave their homes.

“We are going through this as a society,” she said. “When you are ill, everybody else is moving on and that hurts.”

Ally has been accepted to start her PhD at Newcastle University in September, something she says she has “always wanted to do”.

“For me, it’s like I’m giving myself the gift of saying you are well enough to pursue a dream you have had for the last 22 years.”

Her area of research will be on women’s art and the Holocaust.

Whilst a “very heavy and harrowing subject”, Ally said it is something she is passionate about - her dissertation for her undergraduate degree was on art and the Holocaust - and will be “incredibly worthwhile”.

Ally now wants to secure at least two years of funding for CompassionART sessions to continue.

“I never thought I was going to get better,” Ally said. “Don’t give up on having a future.”