A Kinallen woman has beaten the odds to complete an 800-mile motorcycle challenge taking her across the island of Ireland and back home in six days.
Exhausted and in pain, Angela Whitla (50) arrived home after making her way from Lisburn to Waterford to Limerick to Enniskillen and then throughout Northern Ireland, stopping at Londonderry, Coleraine, Carrickfergus and elsewhere.
Having for more than 20 years battled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, self-harming and depression, Angela, also lately diagnosed with fibromyalgia, undertook the challenge to raise funds for three charities, namely Aware Defeat Depression, PIPS suicide prevention and FMS/ME Awareness NI.
“I remember especially on the Saturday night arriving in Co. Fermanagh,” she said. “After a very wet day travelling on the motorbike I was drenched, exhausted and in a lot of pain. I needed members from my team to help me actually get off the motorbike.
“I was more than a little emotional that night and we went out to a local pub for a wee refreshment.
“There I met an elderly lady who wanted to know what we were doing and I had the opportunity to explain to her what my motorbike challenge was all about. . .
“The lady encouraged me to go about the pub with my collection bucket and then they sent me across the road to the pub opposite and everyone was so friendly and generous that we collected over £200 that night, but what struck me more than the money raised was the opportunity to raise awareness for fibromyalgia.”
There were nevertheless times along the way when Angela felt like giving up.
“I felt like giving up the first day,” she said. “We had only got as far as Newry when the magnitude of the task before me really hit home and already my hands and back were very sore, but I kept going; I was determined to do this challenge.
“Fibromyalgia had robbed me of my life; I was going to keep going no matter what.
“There were many times I felt like giving up, especially after travelling through the rain, which made the whole journey extra tough.
“Every day I was in constant pain and my team looked after me so well, taking breaks along the way and making sure I was topped up with hot tea.
“I couldn’t have done this challenge without my team, and I appreciated everything they did, especially their encouragement and listening skills; I will always treasure the time I had with them.”
At another low point, on day two, Angela was met by two bikers who escorted her as far as Carrick, thereby giving her the boost she needed to go on.
Despite the fatigue and pain she has experienced since completing the ride, Angela said she would do it again at need, but she is already lining up a different challenge for September, when she plans to abseil down the Europa Hotel.
To make a donation in support of Angela’s cause, go to http://awareness-ni.org.uk/support-angela.html or contact FMS/ME Awareness NI on 0845 600 3213 to donate or for more information on Fibromyalgia and ME.