TWO years ago March father Mark Kent was diagnosed with an illness that leaves him constantly tired and in pain.
Now he is trying to raise awareness of the problem and is calling for greater understanding for sufferers.
The father of two has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or as it is better known ME.
ME is a controversial illness with some doctors in the past refusing to acknowledge its existence.
But for Mark and his family it is all too real and affects their lives every single day.
He had to undergo specialist testing to get the diagnosis and had to battle for his problem to be properly recognised.
Mark already has health problems and difficulties thanks to Asperger’s Syndrome - a condition on the Autistic spectrum which often leaves sufferers feeling isolated.
Mark (48) believes he started to develop ME before he was 40, but he was only officially diagnosed two years ago.
Symptoms include muscle and joint pain, debilitating tiredness which forces sufferers to need a sleep during the day, lack of concentration, dizziness and sore throats.
It can also leave sufferers with a dry mouth - something Mark describes as being ‘so dry it is like the desert’.
The crippling fatigue is the biggest problem for Mark, and says it has an impact on his family because he gets worn out easily.
“I have to plan everything. I need to time things and know how long it is going to take me to do something if I go out, because I know that it will end with me needing to sleep.
“I can pick the children up from school and when I get back I will be exhausted and just have to sit down. I can then be asleep immediately - there won’t be any warning. One minute I’m awake the next I’m asleep and nothing will wake me.
“I can be completely out for three or four hours and I have no control over that,” said Mark, and he admits that this can lead to tension in the family.
“Tabitha, my wife, gets fed-up because obviously I can’t help her as much as I should and my children feel upset because I can’t play with them as I would like - it is very frustrating,” said Mark, who adds that some people have branded him lazy as a result of his illness.
“I’m not lazy, I have this illness which makes me tired. I feel dizzy and gives me pain. The pain in my muscles and legs can be three times worse than a toothache and can last for two or three hours when it comes on,” added Mark.
He has already been involved in research on Asperger’s Syndrome and he is hoping he will be able to take part in research on ME in the future.
“It is not something it is really known about - but it is such a terrible think for people to suffer from. If I can help by joining a research programme then I would really like to do that,” said Mark.
In the meantime he would like people to be a bit more understanding about the problems of sufferers and also urges others with symptoms they cannot explain to see their doctor.
“I didn’t really know why I was feeling ill and tired all the time, and I’m sure there are other people who are the same and if they do feel like that the best thing they can do is see their doctor.
“ME is not a nice thing to have, but at least you know what is wrong with you and there is some help available,” concluded Mark.