Retired nurse Cath’s search for joy leads to discovery of amazing talent

“When my shakes are bad all day, my neck gets very sore and it’s impossible to read or watch TV. But painting is something I can always do.” 

Retired nurse Cath, 60, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2018. Since then, she has faced other serious health issues, including surgery and a condition that caused the loss of 75% of her vision. Now, as she adjusts to a new reality of sight loss combined with Huntington’s disease, Cath tells us how her changing health led her to unlock a hidden talent. 

“Over six months I was diagnosed with HD, had bowel surgery and went blind,” said Cath, a mum and grandmother from Dunbartonshire. “I’d had balance problems for a few years before then but it was a shock because we didn’t know HD affected our family. Soon after, my mum, 90, and my brother, who passed way last year from cancer, were also diagnosed. 

“I lost power in my legs and couldn’t stand for more than 30 seconds. I could walk for miles but stopping and starting was difficult, and after a 10-minute walk I would shake for 20 minutes. I also had anxiety made worse by a lack of sleep and not eating enough.  

“Sally, my SHA HD Specialist, helped me come to terms with my new disability and not being able to continue in my nursing career. When I needed counselling, Sally arranged it and she continues to be a great encouragement to me. We’ve also received help from SHA’s Financial Wellbeing Service. 

“My whole family, including my daughters, my son, and Al, my partner, are a wonderful support to me. When my sister suggested that I should incorporate joy into my life, I decided to do something positive every month so there’s always something to look forward to. I went travelling but when I came back, I was more affected and needed a walking frame.  

“So my other sister took me to a healer and I was symptomless for three weeks. When they did come back, my shakes didn’t seem as bad. 

“Then my son invited me to visit him in Brazil. He said, ‘get yourself on a plane and we’ll get you off at the other side’.  In December 2019, I flew out but soon started to ask myself, ‘what do I do next?’ I signed up for a painting class advertised on Facebook, and now I paint every day. 

“I’d never picked up a paintbrush before. My brother and sister are artists and my other sister is a writer, but I thought I was more practical than creative. I started with acrylics, now I love pastel work. Painting is something I can always do, even if I don’t always hit the page where I want to, and swapping to my left hand helps settle my shakes. 

“I’ve had exhibitions and last year sold my first painting. I spent the money on an Earthing sheet, a remedy rooted in connecting with the earth. I’ve also tried Reiki, and I meditate and do yoga. Right now, I feel well and strong. I listen to my body then try things to help myself.  

“Huntington’s disease made me stop and think about life, to use all my senses and focus on nice moments every day. Watching and listening to the birds in the garden, the smell of hot toast with butter, it all brings joy.” 

#FamilyMatters #HDAwarenessMonth

Leave a reply