Strong women: Nikki Cooper
Next up is Nikki. I met Nikki through the world of nutrition and came across her supplements before I even knew her story. Nikki’s the found of Inner Me supplements. Nikki’s researched all she can in the world of supplements and come up with a unique range that caters for women depending on where they are in their lifecycle.
But it’s how Inner Me came about. In 2009 Nikki was diagnosed with MS, at just 28 years old. She embarked on her own health journey and not being able to find the supplements she wanted she designed her own! Not only that she’s also gone on to have 2 beautiful children.
I remember meeting Nikki a couple of years ago; confident, running her own business and taking her diagnosis in her stride – she really was! She recently wrote about how being positive has helped her carry on with her love of running and how it enabled her to have the children she’d always wanted.
So I asked Nikki to share with us how she deals with MS on a daily basis, but not only that, looking after 2 children and running her own business.
Tell us what happened in the run up to your diagnosis?
I was super active; running half marathons, recently taken up dragon boat racing, had a personal trainer and was all signed up to climb Kilimanjaro when I noticed that every time I stretched or bent my neck I got a tingling sensation down my spine and within weeks it was then travelling down my right arm with a numbing effect. I put it down to a trapped nerve so at a routine doctor’s appointment for the contraceptive pill I mentioned it to my GP who surprisingly referred me to see a neurologist which I remember at the time thinking was way over the top. It was a huge shock then when the neurologist explained the sensation I was feeling down my neck and spine was called l’hermitte’s phenomenon which was a symptom of MS or a brain tumor. After a series of MRI scans and a lovely lumbar puncture the diagnosis of MS was left ringing in my ears. I can’t explain the feeling but it was as though the specialist was talking about somebody else not me and I was totally dumbfounded as had only just run a 10k the week before and beaten the rest of my team. It was my husband’s birthday that day and remember putting on a brave face over dinner but then spent the whole night crying my eyes out and not sleeping a wink thinking my life was over and that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I had planned for my future.
What got you through the most darkest days?
I made the decision pretty promptly that I was not going to wait for the MS to “get” me and was going to make the most of what I still had as you never know what is around the corner, I could be knocked over by a bus before those days ever came. There were obviously days in that first year where I would wake up with that choking feeling as though something was seriously wrong and then I would remember my diagnosis but I would try and remind myself of all the things I had going for me and why I was lucky. I think the thing that helped me do this the most was that my cousin Jamie had passed away of leukemia when she was just 14 years old. Jamie was the strongest person I have still ever known. It was her who got me into running. I was 23 when she died but when she first fell sick I ran a half marathon for her to raise money for Children with Leukemia, her response to this with a cheeky smirk on her face was “Nikki, that is not a full marathon!”. The year after she passed away I ran the London Marathon knowing she would be up there laughing down on me and my pain at mile 18. I would often remind myself how lucky I was compared to her, she had never had the opportunity to live her dreams, she never fell in love, had babies, became the barrister she would have been a kick-ass at being. So I would say Jamie got me through those darkest days. We as humans have a knack at comparing our own lives to those who may seem more fortunate than us whether it be by money, looks, talent or success but we rarely look and compare our own fortunes to those less fortunate than us.
What’s the one thing that you learnt the most about what you went through?
Make the most of today. Don’t put off those things you want to do or say you will do one day. Life and health is a gift don’t take it for granted. When I was a lawyer I used to have a high maintenance chinese client who would come up with the most unobtainable of demands and timelines but every day she would say to me “Nikki, make it happen”. Even though she knew it was at times impossible all she wanted was for everybody to try their best and be proactive today and not leave things to just happen.
How are you different now that you’ve experienced what you have?
I don’t sweat the small stuff. So what if we are five minutes late to my daughter’s gymnastics class or if the kitchen isn’t shining within 10 minutes of the kids finishing their supper or that I forgot to put the bins out. These things cause us daily stress and can make us snappy but in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter. Relax, smile and laugh when your 2 year old throws herself on the floor in the supermarket!
What would you say to someone going through what you’ve been through?
Don’t despair! Obviously every case of MS is different and we never know what our prognosis is going to be. I used to fear that I would wake up one-day blind and not being able to get up out of bed. The reality is, it is very rare for such a decline to happen so instantly. I can always tell when I am about to relapse, I can feel it creeping in which gives me time to get on the steroids or do what I can to give my body time to relax and hopefully not go into the full throws of a relapse. This may still seem scary but living with it for 8 years now it is nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be at the beginning and I am ever the optimist that there will be a treatment that will halt/reverse my disease in my lifetime with research into stem cell transplants and such advancing every year.
How do you manage everything on a day-to-day basis?
I am as organised as Monica from Friends. From simple tasks such as meal planning, laying out the kids clothes the night before to making lists, I find these things help me feel in control and make my days much smoother which are a huge help on days I may feel more tired with fatigue than normal.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone reading this?
Be positive about everything in your life. Look at what you do have in life rather than what you don’t.
Tell us what inspired you to create Inner Me.
On a quest to optimise my health after the MS diagnosis, I walked out a health store empty handed and bewildered by the walls of dreary, monotonous and obscure supplements with unpronounceable names. In a major Eureka moment I thought of Inner Me. A brand where we do the research so you don’t have to with daily strips of supplements tailored to your needs that can be taken safely together with no need for multiple bottles of capsules.
Your last word …
Make time for “me moments”. I know it is hard with today’s modern busy lifestyles but whether it be making time for that bath with your favourite bath oils to painting your nails to taking that weekly yoga class. These little moments will make you a little bit happier and as such those around you!
Nicky Duffell is a nutritional therapist and health coach who works with clients to improve their health and wellbeing. With over 17 years experience in the corporate world Nicky uses her experience of coaching senior executives to help clients gain control of their health and achieve their goals. She’s a Mum of two beautiful children and know’s what it’s like to juggle family and work. Nicky is passionate about food, health and her family. After life took her on a few twists and turns she started this blog to share everything she’s learnt. You can follow Nicky on Instagram for all her food inspiration and health tips.