I live in a seaside town in Scotland with my family and two dogs. My basic degree is in psychology, and I have a Masters in Advanced Mental Health Practice and a PhD from the University of Dundee. A few years ago now, I was diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disorder, and retired from my post as a lecturer there to research and write a series of historical fiction novels tracing the lineage of Elizabeth Sutherland; a key person in the Highland Clearances. The first book in this family saga, Reign of the Marionettes, will be available for purchase soon. I am currently working on the follow up, which continues where the first book leaves off.
Although my early retirement gave me more time to write, living with lupus is not always easy. Lupus is often poorly understood. When referring to lupus, people mostly mean SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus). This has a range of symptoms. The most common are a rash, fatigue and joint swelling. It is an auto-immune condition- in which the immune system attacks and inflames healthy cells in the body. As with other auto-immune disorders, genetic and environmental factors are thought to trigger the onset. My mother had another auto-immune condition; rheumatoid arthritis.
Medication and diet relieve most of my symptoms. After a year on a corticosteriod, I am now stabilized on an immunosuppressant – which suppresses the immune system from attacking healthy cells. Like me, with the support of friends, family and health professionals, most people effectively manage the symptoms of lupus.
My two dogs keep me active, even when the fatigue from lupus does kick in. Lola, a Dalmatian, is two and typical of her breed – intelligent, playful, loving and fixated on food. Dalmatians are born with white coats, their spots appear about a month after their birth. Lola is amongst the 30% who have full hearing – the breed are prone to deafness. Dalmatians are also prone to urinary stones and require a purine restricted diet. Amongst her spots, you can see that Lola has the often found three spot formation that look like Micky Mouse’s ears.
My other dog, Missy, is an eight-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Missy likes things done her way; from how her breakfast is prepared to how her pillows are arranged, and will huff until she gets it. When not sulking, she is a beautiful, affectionate, and loving companion who likes nothing better than to snuggle in beside me. Wherever I am, she is never far from my side. A Blenheim, Missy lacks the Blenheim spot in the middle of the crown of her head; also called ‘the Kiss of Buddha” or “Kissing Spot.’ Hers seems to have slipped to the bridge of her nose.
An avid reader, writer and beta reader, I try to contribute time and support to the One Million Project, OMP, of which I am a creative member. OMP comprises a group of almost 100 authors and artists who contribute some of their work in an effort to raise one million for homelessness and cancer charities.
I am proud of my Scottish heritage. My father came from Garynahine, near Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis. Through his stories, I developed an interest in the Highland Clearances, where thousands of tenants were forcibly evicted from their homes, to make way for sheep. I would like to share one of my poems, inspired by this.
Bha e’n dàn dha (It Was His Fate)
Here I am up on the rooftop
See me jump
Jump for joy
I will do this my way
Not your way
See me Maoisean?
Remember April eleventh
Remember me today
Say it back nasty fellow
The factor is fat
Fat from my land
He will remember this day
Bha e’n dàn dha
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