My platform throughout pageantry is being a voice for those who suffer with chronic illnesses as well as speaking up about this matter and raising awareness of it.

Pageants have allowed me to take my platform to a completely new level. I’ve had the opportunity to feature in various Newspapers and magazines raising awareness of some of the chronic health issues I live with; I’ve taken the chance to educate people on chronic health issues through my Facebook page for my title of Miss East Lothian Galaxy 2016/17; I’ve participated in awareness days and most importantly of all I’ve given people a true insight into what life is like as a sufferer of chronic illness.

I’m nearly 23 years old and since the age of 14 I’ve suffered with chronic illnesses. The ones which have the biggest impact upon my life are: brittle asthma (severe and uncontrolled asthma); allergies; anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reactions); seizures and somatic/functional vomiting which has resulted in me requiring an NG feeding tube.

Millions of people worldwide suffer with chronic nicole-gray-3illness and that is one of the biggest reasons for my choosing it as my platform for competing in pageants. Many different chronic illnesses exist, they exhibit a range of different signs and symptoms affecting different systems within the body and everyone experiences chronic illness differently. Having a chronic illness can have a massive impact upon your life. Whilst some people can go about their everyday life with not much influence others are not so fortunate and suffer daily effects from their health problems. It can affect so many different aspects of your life and to different extents. Personally speaking my chronic illnesses have affected my education; career; relationships of every sort; confidence and self-esteem to name a few.

Throughout my journey with pageants I have been very open and honest about my health issues and the implications of them. I try to be a voice for those who are not as fortunate as myself of having the ability to inform and educate people about what they endure. I try to show that even if you have something wrong with you, be it physical or mental, you can still succeed. Chronic illness can often destroy your self-esteem and you’re left with no confidence feeling like you aren’t beautiful, pageants allow me to show that even though you may suffer you are beautiful too.

nicole-gray-2I feel something that makes me even more keen to speak out is that not only do I live with invisible chronic illnesses but I have a very visible sign that I am ill. I have a feeding tube on my face which everyone can see. I first was given a feeding tube back in March 2015 after struggling to maintain my own oral nutrition due to being sick after everything I tried to eat and drink. When I was first faced with having a feeding tube I felt embarrassed about it; I felt ashamed; it had a completely detrimental effect on my self-esteem and left me wanting to isolate myself. I entered Miss Galaxy Scotland because I wanted something positive in my life to show myself that even though I am faced with this it doesn’t change the person I am.

I am so grateful to have the chance to speak out about this and use this as my platform. I hope to continue my awareness work in my future pageant journey and show everyone that an illness or set of symptoms doesn’t have to define you as a person.

If anyone would like to follow my pageant journey and learn more about my awareness work please feel free to follow my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/misseastlothiangalaxy2017/

Nicole (Miss East Lothian Galaxy 2016/17) x

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