I am lucky, very lucky, to be invited to many trade shows throughout the year all around the UK as press. But if you follow me on Twitter you'll know I have one show that I always get excited about. The Natural & Organic Products Show has been my favourite trade show for the past few years. The show is exceptionally well organised and I look forward to the show as soon as I start to get the emails about it early in the year. However this year was different. This year, the show saved my life.... literally.
As always, I packed my bag ready to go to the show in April. With press pass in hand I was ready. I know the drill, as a food writer, hit the Natural Food Show first and then make your way over to Natural Living, Health and Beauty.
Now a little back story before we continue dear readers... When I was 19 I had meningitis and unfortunately left untreated for a while as it was thought I just had a 'serious case of the flu'. Because of this, I had a series of strokes and ended up with a rather weird and wonderful illness called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, I have a rare case because I have had it since I was 19 and will never fully recover like most people do. I also have M.E., a hernia and a few other bits and bobs of illnesses I have collected along the way. I use a wheelchair to get around but I certainly do not let that stop me. For a few months before the show, I had been feeling extremely tired, lack of concentration, forgetful etc, but I put it down to my age (yes I have hit that 40 mark!) and various stresses going on in my life. But I put that all behind me for the show, so back to where we were in the story.... press pass in hand and raring to go.
As a food writer, I have to stop at every food stand and try every sample. It is part of the food writer code of conduct and practically law. I took my time, paced myself. Mingled with brands, tried new products, took notes, plenty of photos for Instagram, jotted down all the stall names, grabbed business cards and headed on over to the Natural Health & Beauty Show. By the time I got to the other side of the show, I started to feel particularly dizzy and sick. I have to admit, the thought that I may have eaten something I shouldn't have did cross my mind but I sipped my water and carried on. As the time went on I felt more and more dizzy and so, so tired.
We left the show at closing time, with press packs packed in the car ready for me to go through once I got home so I could plan all my various blog posts for the wonderful brands I had met that day. But by the time I had got home I started to feel worse. So the bags were quickly emptied but left to sort until morning.
In the morning I felt a lot better, but I knew something wasn't right so I took myself off to the doctor and was sent for some tests and that has been going on for a few weeks. Well... what happened next I was not expecting. I was called into the doctor to be told that I was anemic, coeliac and... diabetic.
If I had not gone to the show, I would have never gone to the doctors and I would have just got more and more ill. The show is all about living naturally, eating the right food and good wellbeing. Little did I know that I would be right in the center of that world even more so now than I always have been. I have been a food writer for 23 years and for the past 2 years a natural living writer. And now I have even more reason to fight the fight for natural living, good health, 'free from' foods and all round wholesome goodness.
Thanks to the show, I also met fantastic brands just at the right time. Brands like Mr Organic and Zoot which offer food and treats that I can still eat, and I must have known because I spent a lot of time at each of their stalls talking about their brand and products. I fell in love with the Mr Organic Coconut and Tumeric Salsa, I can only have a tiny amount at a time now but I still adore it and Zoot Zero Dark Chocolate, well I am sure all diabetics at one time or another have had a chocolate craving and with Zoot Zero Added Sugar chocolate I can at least have one small square at a time, just to get a taste.
I am just over a week into my diagnosis and have already managed to bring my glucose levels down from around 16.1 to between 7 and 8. A whole new way of eating has started and I am extremely fortunate to have an entire family who are supporting me by changing how they eat too.
I'll be at the The Natural & Organic Product Show show next year as always. You'll see me hanging out at the Gluten Free stalls, the low sugar food brands and flying the flag for all the natural living and wellbeing I can muster. Being in a wheelchair doesn't mean life has to stop, just like being diabetic doesn't. Life is for living, and I fully intend to.