AN inspirational teenager from Winchelsea Beach is set to compete for England in the Special Olympics despite being in constant pain.
Nicole Martin, aged 17, was born with the genetic condition neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).
Benign tumours affect her nerve endings causing chronic pain and sickness and mobility problems.
Nicole has recently had major surgery to remove tumours that would become cancerous if left.
But this has not stopped her from pursuing her dream of competing in Judo tournaments.
Nicole is in the team to represent England in the European Games, in Antwerp, Belgium, in September and could go on compete in the World Games in Los Angeles next year.
As if this was not enough, Nicole is set to take part in a charity sky-dive in June to help local CharityForKids, who funded a special sports wheelchair so that she could complete her sports course at Bexhill College.
The charity helps sick and terminally ill children in Sussex.
Nicole wants to be an athlete or sports psychologist and was described by her Judo teacher Paul Everest as ‘inspirational’.
Nicole said: “Judo makes me feel happier, being able to show people I am a fighter.
“I don’t let NF1 rule my life. I have to adapt. There is always a positive.”
Nicole and her family are also keen to raise more awareness of NF1 so that those affected can get early treatment.
The disease affects one in 2,500 people. Someone with NF1 will be born every day in the UK.
Nicole’s mother Vanessa believes that NHS health professionals need to be given additional training to recognise the symptoms and to understand the correct course of treatment. She’d also like to see increased Government funding to publicise and carry out research into the condition.
Vanessa said: “There is a high cost to diagnosing NF1 as many doctors and midwives are unaware of the condition.
“Money is wasted on incorrect tests and needless investigations. If more staff were trained to recognise the symptoms, the whole process would be more efficient and people could be treated faster and smarter.”
Nicole met with parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen, who has enlisted the help of Lord Bassam of Brighton to raise the profile of NF1.
Sarah Owen said: “I am inspired by Nicole and Vanessa’s determination to get neurofibromatosis discussed and I back their campaign to improve diagnosis and increase support for those with the condition. They have both had to go through so much with very little help. It’s time there was a joined-up approach to supporting carers and those with NF1.”
Lord Bassam commented: “Nicole and Vanessa have highlighted some serious problems. I am surprised by how common this condition is with public awareness being so low. I want to find out what the Government will do to increase GP’s diagnostic training.
“I also want to know what support is given to carers of those with the condition and whether any guidance is given to schools, colleges and universities to take into account the symptoms and difficulties faced by sufferers.”
If you would like to support Nicole in her charity sky dive you can sponsor her by going to her Just Giving page at http://justgiving.com/vanessa-martin1