Eleanor Farr - Miss England

A young business owner from Nantwich has defied the odds by battling a severe chronic condition which almost drove her to suicide to earn a place in Miss England semi-finals.

Eleanor Farr’s incredible fighting spirit wowed Miss England organisers so much they fast-tracked her application straight through the regional Miss Cheshire contest.

The 24-year-old, formerly of Station View in Nantwich, who now runs her own photography business Stretton Studios in Malpas, was diagnosed with an aggressive autoimmune disease aged just 19.

The condition left parts of her body permanently damaged or destroyed after years of medication and treatment.

And it was so chronic and painful at one stage, as her immune system attacked her own joints and organs, it left her contemplating taking her own life.

But now she hopes her story will inspire others not to give in and fight through the pain barrier to achieve their goals.

Eleanor in hospital bed

Eleanor in her hospital bed

Eleanor, a former Bishop Heber School student says: “I have been on a whole plethora of medications as well as had physiotherapy, infusions, countless x-rays and every type of scan under the sun!

“I wanted to spread the word about my condition and hopefully inspire people to never be afraid to dream big, no matter what their background or circumstances.”

Eleanor studied Graphic Design at Leeds University for three years before moving to Nantwich with her boyfriend, who she is no longer with.

But it was during her university years she began suffering with her joints – the start of her medical nightmare.

“It was winter and bitterly cold and I noticed that my joints started hurting,” she recalls.

“I assumed the cold was somehow causing me to seize up and thus put me in pain.

“First the balls of my feet, then my knees, and then I developed what I can only describe as an excruciating pain in my shoulder which led me to believe I must have, somehow, dislocated it.

“It was Halloween night when the pain became so unbearable that I could barely breathe, so my housemate and I headed off to A&E.

“I had blood tests done which showed sky-high inflammatory markers in my blood and I was quickly referred to rheumatology team.

“By mid-January 2014, I had received the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disorder which causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue.”

Eleanor post major surgery - Miss England

Eleanor post major surgery

Eleanor faced a race against time to find a treatment which would work before her joints and other body tissues were permanently destroyed.

“Little did I know the next few years would drag me through hell,” she adds.

“My body responded poorly to every medication I tried, meanwhile my disease was rapidly spiralling out of control, leaving me disabled and unable to move without agonising pain.”

She was prescribed various drugs, many of which had debilitating side effects.

One was called the biologic drug Enbrel, commonly known as ‘The Miracle Drug’.

“I had high hopes for this medication,” she says.

“I had to self-inject, but sadly my body did not accept this either and it had no affect on my disease.

“I was put on strong NSAID painkillers and many, many steroids that caused me to gain weight, have erratic mood swings and develop osteopenia.

“By this stage I was suffering with depression, too – I was in so much pain I couldn’t do the most simple of activities like boiling a kettle or dress myself and on top of that, I couldn’t look in the mirror because I despised how I looked.

“I was missing out on activities with my friends, I couldn’t do things which any other ‘normal’ 19-22 year old could do.

“I’m very lucky I had such a supportive family and friends because I was in such a bad place in my head that I started believing that death was preferable to the hell I was experiencing.”

Eleanor after hip replacement

Eleanor after hip replacement

Cartilage in her right wrist and one of her hips was destroyed by the condition. She underwent his replacement surgery.

Finally a drug called Rituximab seemed to work and for the first time in years, Eleanor started to see improvements.

“I am pleased to say I have been in remission for the past year or so.

“I can now live a relatively ‘normal’ life – obviously taking caution with activities so not to put too much strain on my already damaged joints.

“I still get pain in places, in particular my wrists, but this is due to damage which was caused when my disease was active rather than because the disease is STILL active and continuing to destroy my body.”

Just as Eleanor was getting back on her feet and after launching her photography business, she was burgled in November last year.

Miss England - Eleanor Farr and her new business

Eleanor Farr and her new business

“I came back fighting thanks to the help of my local community who created a JustGiving page and raised £500 to help me get back onto my feet.

“I work 12-hour days standing on my feet shooting weddings. Not so long ago, I couldn’t even stand without crutches!”

Eleanor split from her boyfriend last year, which was the catalyst for her to enter Miss Cheshire competition.

“I was feeling incredibly low and when I looked back over everything I’d been through over the years from my health to the robbery to the break-up, I actually thought I needed something to give me a boost and so I bit the bullet and applied.

“I was very lucky because a phone call and informal interview with Mark Jones from Miss England said I had been fast-tracked through the regionals and was straight into the Miss England semi-finals!

“The Miss England team loved how I’d come back fighting and wanted to award me a place in the semis, which of course, I’m very grateful.”

Miss England - Eleanor with sister Amy

Eleanor with sister Amy

Eleanor is also staging a fundraiser for a suicide prevention charity on Saturday June 8, which is part of the Miss England contest.

It’s a gig to be held at De Bees in Winsford, to support the venue.

The Miss England Semi finals will be held on June 16 at the Mechanics Theatre in Burnley

To find out more about Eleanor and her Miss England journey, you can visit her semi-finalists page on Facebook ‘Eleanor Farr Miss England Semi-Finalist 2019’ www.facebook.com/Eleanor-Farr-Miss-England-Semi-Finalist-2019-656743621405108/

Miss England - Eleanor with family

Eleanor with family

Miss England - Eleanor at work at Carden Park Hotel

Eleanor at work at Carden Park Hotel

Miss England - Eleanor with cow Rosie-Juno

Eleanor with cow Rosie-Juno

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