Spreading the word

PUBLISHED: 17:12 10 August 2006 | UPDATED: 11:56 04 May 2010

DETERMINED: ME sufferer Jessica Harris has taught herself web design.

DETERMINED: ME sufferer Jessica Harris has taught herself web design.

AS Ely prepares to host the first Great Ely Walk, teenager Jessica Harris is determined to complete the four-mile route. The 14-year-old however, admits she won t make it without her wheelchair. Jessica suffers from ME - better known as chronic fatigue sy

AS Ely prepares to host the first Great Ely Walk, teenager Jessica Harris is determined to complete the four-mile route. The 14-year-old however, admits she won't make it without her wheelchair. Jessica suffers from ME - better known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

But her illness has led to a new interest in designing websites and walk organisers have tapped into her talent to encourage support for the event.

JESSICA Harris was an ordinary, healthy 14-year-old until she was suddenly hit with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Her life changed completely. She battled with extreme tiredness accompanied by major sleeping difficulties and struggled to cope with headaches, high temperatures and short-term memory loss.

After initial advice from her doctor to take six weeks' rest, she found the time rolling by without a firm diagnosis.

In fact, it was almost a year after the onset of her symptoms that a specialist confirmed she had Myalgic Encephalitis in January this year.

Forced to drop out of school, Jessica began teaching herself website design.

She stumbled on Pizco on the internet, which allows teenagers to set up their own sites completely free.

"I started off with the most basic designs," she said. "Then I had a really bad relapse. I was bed-bound for a week and I used the time to really get into Pizco. That's where it started.

"The work I am doing now is my life. It's got me through times that I thought I'd never get through."

Jessica, whose father runs a stall on Ely Market, was contacted by Ely Hereward Rotary Club to design a website for its first Great Ely Walk on September 3.

From her Wisbech home she put together a site to publicise the walk and encourage charity sponsorship.

Now Jessica is determined to complete the four-mile route even though she accepts she will not be able to walk the entire distance.

"My wheelchair, Whinnie, will be my good companion as ever," she said. "I am very excited about this. I'm raising money for the Association of Young People with ME. I just really need to spread the word about ME.

"I need people to realise the sort of pain and suffering we are going through."

Her father, Barry, said: "I've seen the long tough road that Jess has had during the 18 months that she has been ill and know that it is probably just the beginning."

He added that he was extremely proud of her and her optimism for the future.

Jess tells her amazing story on her website www.e-jess.com.

You can take part

ELY Hereward Rotary Club has teamed up with the Ely Standard to launch the first Great Ely Walk on Saturday, September 3.

It aims to promote healthy living and at the same time raise money for charity.

The walk will be a four-mile circular pathway around the city, starting from Palace Green at 10am and continuing along the Gallery to the King's School Porta Gate, through Cherry Park to Broad Street past The Maltings and towards the river to the Fisherman's car park. Then it will go to Pocket Park, the Woodland Trail towards Lisle Lane, Bray's Lane and back to Palace Green.

A total of 33 charities are supporting the event, including the East Anglia Children's Hospice, Homestart East Cambridgeshire, MAGPAS, Macmillan Cancer Relief, Age Concern and the Association of Young People with ME.

Walkers can raise money for these charities or choose their own favourite charities to benefit from their efforts.

They will pay a registration fee to take part, which will cover administration costs, and can raise sponsorship or just take part for fun.

Single registration costs £7.50 for adults, £5 for children under 16, £20 for a group of up to five walkers or £15 for a family.

To take part in the event simply cut out the registration form above and return it with payment to the address at the bottom.

Alternatively, forms can be printed off the Great Ely Walk website or collected from the Ely Standard office at 38 Market Street, Ely.

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