A former Olympic hopeful whose sporting ambitions were destroyed after she contracted Lyme’s disease has set up her own travel business - to help others suffering chronic illness.
Sophie Ward from Garstang has fought ongoing ill health to raise awareness of the tick borne Lyme disease.
Last summer her ill health meant she felt unable to go on holiday, but her family persuaded her to join them on a cruise at the beginning of September.
It opened her eyes to how it is possible to travel and see the world and gain new experiences despite health setbacks.
She came home and was inspired to gain new travel industry qualifications by distance learning.
Sophie said: “I was very reluctant to go (on the cruise) because of everything going on with my stomach.”
The holiday proved for her that the seemingly impossible could become possible, with staff catering staff aware of her dietary needs.
Sophie who cannot tolerate oil in foods and needs to eat steamed foods said::“That meant the world to me.”
She also welcomed the easily accessible rooms on board ship:” Anyone with any disability they can't do enough for you. and the staff were most helpful.
The fact there was a medical service on board also meant she was reassured that help and advice would be available if needed.
It has been a testing year for her. She says medical experts discovered she had three viruses attacking her vagus nerve.
But despite ongoing health problems the new role, helping others with health issues to expand their horizons too, has given her hope and joy.
The 25year old said: “In spoke to my mum and she said this could be something that gives you your sparkle back. I really enjoy it. It's making me look to 2020 and book travel for myself. I'm trying to specialise in cruises because they're easier for me personally. That's my goal now - to try and enhance the life of other chronic illnes sufferers. I am just hoping I can lead by example and empower others to do some travel.””
It has also been a testing year due to bereavement. She said: “I've lost a couple of friends this year suddenly. It's hit me. It really obviously hits home”
She added:”I want to travel more ... I can't wait for the perfect time. You've to make sure you're living life to the fullest.”
Sophie also hopes to continue to empower people through her podcasts and blog.
On her site sophantasic.org she notes: “It is time to travel the world, time to experience the adventures we deserve. Time to break free from the illness, the problems, the fears that cage us in. We have spent to long waiting. Waiting for a 'better day.' To feel 'better' tomorrow. The time is NOW. Act NOW, tomorrow isn't a given. So get planning that trip now! “
* Sophie is thought to have contracted Lyme's disease after being bitten while visiting a Panda sanctuary in China during a visit to the Bejing Olympics.