I’m proud to say that on the first week in December, 2015, I made my first ever proper, public speech. In public!
I’m never one to shy away from speaking to strangers, but it’s rare that I tell my story on mass to a group of people. Usually I am telling someone else’s story, or telling my own 1 to 1.
Meningitis Now had invited me to Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office for their ‘#Timefortea’ event. Irwin Mitchell are being a huge support to the charity, so naturally I said of course, I would go along and say a few words.
I wasn’t really sure where to start. While my story is my life, to others it can seem a bit Debbie Downer unless it’s said in the right way, so I decided to try and keep it very matter of fact, and to get to the point.
I wrote it as a bit of a timeline, (and decided to stick to my script… Anyone who knows me will know i’m good at babbling incoherently) based on Meningitis Now’s ”Rebuilding Futures” campaign. Meningitis was my past, now is now, and my future is currently being shaped, yet to be determined. When I say I stuck to the script, there was a bit of leeway where I got overexcited, told them ”I’M AT UNI NOW!” followed by, ”damn, i just ruined the ending.” Luckily that got a few laughs!
Anyway, what was that about babbling and tangents?
I got a lot of good feedback from the speech, despite my voice going a bit wobbly at times (I never really think about my ”story” until I’m talking about it head on!) and many people said that if that was my first speech, then they’d love to see me after a bit of practice.
The speech went as follows:
“My name’s Rosie, and i’m 18.
Today I’ve been asked to tell you my story.
When I was 5, like any other child, I played with my friends at school.
By age 6, it was becoming clear I was a bit of a teachers pet, enjoyed going to the park, playing with my baby sister, and, for a few years I did every extra curricular activity under the sun.
When I was 7, I got meningitis.
I was in ICU for a while, and there’s no denying I was ill, but we were so grateful that I woke up, and made a recovery. I had my arms, and my legs, and my brain was still seemingly in tact..
By the time I was 8, my parents were told I had chronic kidney disease.
I spent a lot of time in hospital.
By age 9, I had been told I had M.E. I was told to stop doing athletics, and to stop going to brownies, to stop going out to play at break… in order to keep me well enough to actually go to school.
Aged 11, and after a massive relapse after the change to high school, I no longer attended school. Instead I received an hours home tuition a week and was mostly confined to my house and my bed.
At 14, through a Meningitis Now family day, I met my best friend, who taught me that life didn’t have to stop just because I’d had meningitis. I COULD make a difference despite my illnesses, and the need for awareness of this disease was highlighted.
I was taught that if we could save one life from giving out awareness cards on a rainy Saturday morning, our work would be worth it.
By age 15, my friend had died from the after effects of his meningitis, 10 years after originally having it.
I pledged to carry on in his place.
The point i’m trying to highlight here, is that as dark as my ‘story’ seems on first glance, there have been times of light all the way through – often these times of light were provided by Meningitis Now.
The charity has given me, and most importantly my family, support since Day one. The North West’s community support officer Chris has been a source of help and advice and a friend since this began. When I was isolated because I wasn’t well enough to go to school, because of meningitis, I was offered art therapy to help deal with this. I met people in similar situations through Meningitis Now’s family days. I was offered counselling and each year a carol concert is held where people can meet people in similar situations which gives us all a unique sense of unity.
Without funds, this would be impossible to achieve, but the fact is, support like this, to people who need it, is priceless.
I’m Rosie, I’m now 18, and Meningitis Now have offered me a future.
I’m proud to say that I am a futures builder, and I hope that you will join me to support a great cause like Meningitis Now and help other people, like me, to rebuild their lives after such trauma.”
And there we have it!
My first speech.