IT'S TOUGH: Candace Carter, of Churchill, reveals the challenges of living with chronic illness.
IT'S TOUGH: Candace Carter, of Churchill, reveals the challenges of living with chronic illness. David Nielsen

Determined and social 23-year-old battles 'invisible' illness

CANDACE Carter can't remember a time in her life when she hasn't been at least a little unwell.

She describes herself as a "sick kid" growing up but says it was 2011 when she started to realise her condition was getting worse.

The 23-year-old, known as Candy to her friends, lives with chronic illness and she's not afraid to let people know it.

She has set up an Instagram account, chronically_candy, which documents her daily life as a young woman with a chronic illness and is in the process of starting a blog.

"I got sick of the highlights reel that social media is. I just want to be like, 'You know what? This sucks and that's okay'," she said.

"I just feel like it's something people don't talk about and it's so hidden.

"I want to start the conversation about chronic illness so that other people with it can see that someone else is struggling and know they are not alone."

Like many with a chronic illness, the Churchill local said she hadn't got a concrete diagnosis from doctors.

But she has gotten closer in the last 12 months to finding a name for the illnesses that are greatly affecting her life.

"I am floating between chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I've also got a diagnosed thyroid condition as well," she said.

Even getting to that point was a tough road for Candy.

"It took about six months for them to stop telling me I was just depressed.

"I had to go to a psychologist to prove it wasn't in my head," she said.

"I ended up in tears in the doctor's office when I was told.

"It felt so huge having another diagnosis hanging over me (as well as my thyroid condition).

"I was relieved with the diagnosis but at the same time it was another illness that didn't have a treatment that I just had to learn to live with."

Since her condition declined, Candy has had to cut back on her social life and work hours.

It's not something that comes easy to the naturally determined and social 23-year-old.

She is learning to realise that if she pushes herself too much, she'll pay the price.

"I still forget my limits sometimes but it makes you look at the day a different way," she said.

"If I am going out shopping I have to take my walking stick with me so it's easy on my body. If I am cleaning the house, I have to bring a stool to sit on while I do, or clean one room at a time and not overload myself or, if I'm going to work, it's the only thing I can do that day.

"I can't live up to the standards I held myself to any more. It's been tough."

Candy says having good and bad days is all part of living with a chronic illness.

Though one of the hardest parts is the fact that, to someone meeting her for the first time, she looks healthy.

"It's an invisible illness so you have to talk about it, otherwise no one knows," she said.

"Sometimes you get some dodgy looks from people who don't know you.

"The other day my grandparents were loading things into the ute and a neighbour was looking at me doing nothing to help.

"Having to lean on my family for help and even just going out with a walking stick in my early 20s - they stare at you.

"I consider myself a pretty happy person but a lot of the time I feel like it doesn't show because I am too tired to be energetic.

"I can sound pretty flat when I talk to people. It does affect my personality.

"It's like living in a bubble and you look at everyone around you that are living a healthy life.

"It's a lot harder than it looks."

Candy is also using her social media account to try to let people know that life with a chronic illness isn't all bad.

"My mum has been my biggest support - she freezes meals, cleans my kitchen, drives me to appointments and my fiancé Nathan does the same and he helps so much," she said.

"I am getting married in four months, which is really exciting.

"For me, making plans for the future is key to making me feel I have a life worth living.

"I want to let them know there is hope and you can have a good life. It's not the end."

Candy shared her story in the lead-up to National Pain Week, held July 24 to 30.



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