Curvy Girl Thin- My Role Model Is...

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Find the power to go on: Anne Dunham MBE, my role model

It’s very rare in life to come across someone who really has the power to inspire you – to make you sit up and take notice of what is possible, or what you can achieve.  They often don’t know that they have this power – they’re just living their daily lives as best they can.

For me, this person is Anne Dunham.  A British Paralympic athlete who has refused to let chronic illness hold her down and has represented her country in the equestrian team at four Paralympic Games, bringing home gold medal after gold medal.

Now it may be enough to leave it there, that Anne has triumphed despite being dealt a rather awful hand in the health stakes.  That she’s pushed above and beyond what many able bodied women achieve to become a leader of her sport.  Yet I don’t think that is enough – I think it’s important to explain just why she inspires me, why she is my role model.

For those who don’t know me: Hi, I’m Charli, I’m 26, and I have a neurological disorder.   Aged 17 there was doubt over if I would ever walk again – I did, in three months and I got back in a horse in six.  I was stubborn and determined and no-one was going to keep me in that wheelchair.   Last year, eight years after proving the doctors wrong, I fell ill again.  A short spinal operation later and my left leg is a heavy dead object that doesn’t want to do as it’s told – crutches are needed for walking more than a few steps and my sky scraper heels are listed on eBay cause I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk in them again.  I’m also left with inexplicably painful headaches.

Now, I moped for a month or two – didn’t exercise for four and got annoyed when people told me to ‘look on the bright side’.

Then I picked myself back up – I looked at Anne Dunham, a woman diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a similar age to my own.   A women who needed a wheelchair aged 30 and who, at the age of forty, decided to get back on a horse and pursue her life long ambition to compete.  Many people would have given up, accepted that exercise is perhaps a little much for them – especially an exercise like horse riding that is high impact and potentially very dangerous. Yet Anne climbed back on that horse and pushed herself to the limit. In 2008 aged 60 years old, an age where most people are winding down their sporting activities, Anne won her fifth paralympic gold medal.

Not only this, but Anne helps others, both able-bodied and disabled, to learn to ride and advises her local authority on accessibility for wheelchair uses.   I mean, where does she get the energy?

If this remarkable lady, despite all her challenges, can do so much, can push above and beyond – then why can’t I?  And what right do I have to mope?

Last month I started my journey to get back on a horse – I need to build up a lot of strength and coordination but, thanks to Anne and other women like her, I will get back on a horse this year and, this time, I will stay on!

Charli Stewart

You can catch up with our friend Charli on her blog


Who is your role model? Nominate her to be a Panache role model here:


Curvy Girl Thin- My Role Model Is...