The inspirational Amanda
The Glass House Mountains is home to Amanda Smyth, a farmer, cookbook author and blogger, who has brought inspiration, humour and comfort to many on her journey so far. Amanda’s story began in last month’s HT, and there was much to share – here is the second instalment.
by Rebecca Mugridge
Amanda loves food, from the paddock to the plate, and believes it is important to get kids into the kitchen more.
“Kids are 100% more likely to eat things they had a hand in preparing, like my daughter, Harriet, will chop the mushrooms for our spaghetti bolognese and she sits on the stool next to me and we have these amazing and different chats when we work side by side in the kitchen.”
However, despite her culinary and blogging success, a couple of years ago Amanda was dealt a heavy blow when she was told she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Deciding whether or not to share her story and diagnosis was a big decision for Amanda and her family.
“I muddled around with whether I would blog about it or not. In the end I thought being self-employed I was actually in a unique position where I didn’t have to worry about being the first on the to-be-retrenched pile when I told my employer,” she said.
This was something that was one of her driving factors to reach out. Thankfully, being farmers, they are their own employers. A small blessing in an otherwise devastating time for their whole family.
“The first things you think about when you get diagnosed are I want to grow old with my husband, I don’t want to be a young person in a nursing home.”
It is the first stages after diagnosis that are the hardest according to Amanda.
“The information at first can be so overwhelming and you just don’t see a lot of young people represented or still living their lives as they were planned. You tend to only see the very heavily disabled people.”
As a young person with MS, and a farmer and mother as well, she realised she was exactly the kind of person more newly diagnosed young people needed to see. She made a decision to help people feel less frightened and overwhelmed by sharing her experiences and personal story.
“I’ve got MS, but it isn’t changing my life right now,” words Amanda is choosing to live by.
She also strongly wants people to know there are so many variants in each case because everybody progresses differently, there is so much unknown at the time of diagnosis that you need to just keep positive and be practical.
“It is not as terrifying as it first seems, the treatments have come so far in the last ten years, the people that have been diagnosed the same time as I, have a much better prognosis than people say 20 years ago,” she said.
Amanda received her diagnosis when she realised something was very wrong. “I started to lose my sight out of my right eye and every morning it got worse. Then my colour vision went as well. Every morning I would wake up and it was a little bit worse. It was pretty frightening.”
Losing colour vision was especially difficult and upsetting at the time for Amanda as she does so much food styling and photography.
Amanda knew she wanted to share her story as she would have loved to have read another young person’s story at the time she discovered she had MS.
“I wrote about my experience on my blog and it reached so many people. I thought if I just helped one person that would be really cool, but I started getting a lot of messages.”
Turns out she was inspiring lots of other young MS sufferers and their families.
After a really hard time, things are now looking much better for the hard-working farmer who makes a pretty spectacular pavlova.
“I found a treatment that is working. It is all back [her eyesight], it now looks like we will actually lead the life we always planned on, so I thought I should write a few posts that also took the ‘fright’ out of it for others and were more like, now that you know what you are dealing with, let’s get on and deal with it.
“I am so pleased I did choose to write about it because I reached people that found comfort in my writing. I have had so many emails,” she said.
Amanda wanted to show newly diagnosed people that there are people out there with the disease who are still living their life too, not everyone is in full time care or heavily disabled.
She describes it as like saying, ‘you’ve got MS but you are still getting on with life’. “It takes away so much of the fear people can feel when they are told they have MS.”
People can find Amanda, her recipes and farm stories and also the cookbook through her blog www.cookerandalooker.com and on Facebook at Cooker and a Looker.
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