I’m back!!

Hey everyone!!

I’m so sorry I’ve been away for ages but I’m back on your screens and here to stay! A crazy few months for me but I can’t wait to tell you all about it. So hold on tight and here we go!

Where do I start?

I’ve had auditions for the X Factor and The Voice, unfortunately both were unsuccessful but the experience was incredible! The best part for me was being able to begin to slowly break down the stigma of CP and really show everybody what I’m made of. I reckon a few singing lessons under my belt and I’ll be back next year. The social media coverage I received was crazy! If any of you read newspaper articles or saw me on YouTube then I want to say a huge thank you for all your amazing support it really does mean everything.

My role as ambassador with Blackburn Youth Zone is going from strength to strength. Our new activity programme was launched on June 5th and the feedback given has been nothing short of phenomenal. We now have activities suitable for everyone that comes through our doors. Creative cooking, Zumba, Sculpture Art, and Ninja Warrior challenges just to name a few they certainly have our members keep coming back for more.

As well as this we’ve also been collaborating with Action Factory Arts in Darwen. These guys deliver amazing visual and expressive arts sessions at youth zone. At the moment our Diversity group are currently devising a play all about youth zone and our own personal journeys.

This performance will be shown at our 5th birthday celebrations on June 28th and I will be performing a monologue of my own personal journey and how the youth zone has helped me to fly.

As mentioned previously, June 28th marks an incredible milestone for us as we celebrate our 5th birthday, we’re also having a huge party called Eat Together and you’re all invited.

This is an event which aims to bring the whole of Blackburn With Darwen together and also commemorate 5 years of when we first opened and I’ve also had the huge honour of being asked to host this event alongside another one of our Diversity members of staff. Words aren’t enough to describe how much this means to me. I’ve never felt so incredibly lucky to be in partnership with an amazing and all rounded team of colleagues who really believe in me and everything I do. By continuing to do what we do hopefully we will still be bringing lots of smiles for years to come.

I hope you enjoy reading this.

Francesca X

Back With A Bang!

Hello Everybody!

After a very long hiatus I am officially back on your computer screens and here to stay! I’ve had an incredible start to 2017 and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

After all the hype at Christmas I started to experience a real lack of confidence over my material in this blog and in myself too. As most of you know I had to leave college last year due to lack of funding.

As far as I was concerned that was it for me. I felt as if I didn’t have anything to get up for in the mornings anymore and any real sense of routine or reality had been completely sucked out from underneath me. However I’m not a woman who takes anything lying down and besides there’s only so much Netflix and YouTube you can binge on after a while!

After spending 10 months as a member of Blackburn Youth Zone they asked me to become their ambassador as well as represent their Diversity Club provision that I still attend religiously every Sunday morning, I can’t begin to tell you all what this means to me. The ambassador role is amazing because not only do I get to write blogs on their website but I can really start to investigate what really makes our members tick and collaborate with staff and make any improvements to keep them coming back for more.

As well as this back in February I was asked on behalf of the Youth Zone to be a guest speaker at their James Bond inspired ball held at Blackburn Rovers. 190 guests attended and I had to speak about how Youth Zone has completely changed my life.

With huge thanks to all our patrons we managed to raise a monumental £30,000!! The reaction to my speech was just so overwhelming and their wasn’t a dry eye in the house. With this money we can continue to provide first-class activities, sanctuary, memories and a whole lot of laughs all for just 50p. 52 weeks a year!

I am also delighted to announce I am a volunteer for Dreams Come True! This charity makes dreams come true for children and young people with a series of life-limiting conditions. Their dream could be anything from meeting a celebrity or jumping out of a plane. It’s very early days but let me tell you it really does make you reassess everything. I can’t wait to see what lies in store.

So there you have it, my 2017 so far!

Francesca X

Blackburn Youth Zone & Me

Hi everybody!

Welcome to a brand new week!

Yesterday I received some amazing news! I am now officially an ambassador for Blackburn Youth Zone! I can’t even begin to put into words about undertaking such a huge responsibility but I’m now determined more than ever to create a magical partnership with the Youth Zone and continue to give them the recognition they deserve. I’m also very eager to collate feedback from parents or carers and find out how Blackburn Youth Zone has totally transformed their child’s life just by attending a few weekly sessions.

Now, this is my chance to tell you all about my journey with Blackburn Youth Zone so far, how my weekly  sessions have totally transformed my  life and why I think the only way is up for the future of not just Blackburn Youth Zone but for a wide spectrum of Youth Zone’s all across the country.

What is Blackburn Youth Zone?

Blackburn Youth Zone is a facility situated in the heart of Blackburn Town Centre and offers nothing but jam-packed activities for all age ranges. As well as this the facilities are second to none including a sports hall, dance studio, and a 3G football pitch just to name a few but what really touches me is the outstanding 1;1 support given to those who are desperate for someone to speak to or they might not have had the best start in life. Some of the young people in Blackburn end up homeless through no fault of their own. Without the amazing work of the Youth Zone I think the future for many of our young people would’ve been very bleak indeed. Each session is just 5op and membership fee is £3 which is another thing they manage to take into excellent consideration as all family circumstances are completely different.  Image result for blackburn youth zone

All About Me

There may be a few Blackburn Youth Zone staff members  reading this who may recognise me from 1 or 2 sessions  but may not have a clue who I am. So as a special treat this is for you. Francesca Caroline Dean made her entrance into the world on the 28th September 1994 weighing a very tiny 2lbs 8oz. However I developed Cerebral Palsy, a condition which occurs in birth where not enough oxygen is supplied to the brain. From an early age my parents started to notice something wasn’t right when I started to miss important milestones.

Despite spending a short time in the additional educational needs sector, I was lucky enough to attend mainstream school which in my opinion was the best outcome because  in our society now things have improved yes but I still believe there aren’t enough opportunities devised for those who have additional needs.

Since these early years I left school with  10 GCSE’S and I’ve also landed several qualifications including a BTEC Level 2 in Travel and Tourism back in 2013 at Accrington and Rossendale College and a Level 3 Certificate in Business at Blackburn College which started in 2015 and ended last year.  The last few years I have solely dedicated my life to getting the best results possible  making sure I grab every opportunity as it comes my way and Blackburn Youth Zone have taught me just that to stop looking down but look up instead.

My Blackburn Youth Zone Journey

My very first Youth Zone visit was in June 2016. I was so impressed by all the activities on offer I didn’t want to leave. Rachel who works on reception gave me a full guided tour and I couldn’t believe my eyes as everyone’s energy felt so warm and I felt  at home straightaway.

The week after this I started my very first Diversity Club session and a lovely lady named Laura Walker introduced herself to me. My 1st activity was to take part in a blindfolded taste test. After this I was covered in squirty cream whilst the other members threw cheesy Wotsits at me! It was a very messy 1st session but I went home with the biggest smile on my face and that’s how it ends for me every week.

 

Diversity Club is a session which runs every Sunday from 10am-1pm with a fee of just 50p  This session is open to anyone but its main objective is to include every young person regardless of age, background  or  members with physical or additional needs. The list of activities are endless! We do everything to arts & crafts, Karaoke, Gym sessions and my favourite Dance.

Fahima who runs the dance sessions is so lovely and such a talented dancer too. I love taking  part in every activity available but the best part for me is to zoom around and see everyone have the time of their lives. Each member of staff is so helpful and I have created some amazing bonds with all of the Diversity Club team and the most amazing thing is we’re all one big family.

As I close this post I want to say a massive Thank You to all Blackburn Youth Zone participants and members of staff who have believed in me to pursue my new role. Blackburn Youth Zone is a truly incredible place to be and I would be lost without it. It really is an amazing feeling to be awarded the role of an ambassador and with every bone in my body I will make sure future members will want to come back for more.

If you’re a parent who worries about their safety when playing out on the streets I strongly urge you to try your local Youth Zone as you will see an instant transformation within your child or young person.

Francesca X

 

 

 

A new year and a new me!!

Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year!!

Sorry for my lack of blogging recently the whole festive period has been absolutely manic for me! I hope everyone has had an amazing Christmas and New Year with their loved ones?

Personally, I’m so glad 2016 is now over because even though I saw a lot of ups plenty of downs were included too but I’m determined more than ever now to make 2017 my year.

A few days before Christmas I became quite down and very emotional because of my disability I can’t just walk into anywhere and ask for a job because there’s a lot of components surrounding Cerebral Palsy I have to take into consideration such as personal care. You may remember me writing on my blog last year about having to leave college due to lack of funding, even though this has been a few months ago this has really knocked me for six because after completing 2 years at college you become very close with your colleagues, classmates and the overall structure of your daily routine.

Most of my days are now spent in my room on my computer trying to educate others about Cerebral Palsy, trying to watch as much Netflix as humanly possible and maintaining this blog. I also have 4 hourly visits from my carers making sure all my requirements are met. On Tuesdays I have a day out with a carer carrying out personal activities of my choice such as going out for meals, seeing family or going shopping. However, this isn’t how I imagined my twenties to be. I’m now finding I’m starting to crave going to work and enjoying new experiences.

Now, normally I don’t normally bother with New Year Resolution shit because I’m crap at keeping them anyway but here’s a few I’m desperate to maintain this year.

  • Carry out more independent living tasks. By this I mean being more responsible for my money saving and grabbing a bargain every once in a while and learning how to cook my own meals whilst under the supervision of a carer. I normally don’t have to worry about any of this as my dad cooks most of our meals but I probably won’t be living with him forever and I will eventually have to stand on my own two feet.
  • Get a job. As I mentioned up in the above leaving Blackburn College really whipped the wind from underneath my sails but from the age of 16, 17. I’ve had a very deep interest in Travel and Tourism and I studied this at Level 2 during my time at Accrington and Rossendale College back in 2013.  However, as there are so many elements  to the industry jobs in this field are very hard to come by, I would like to get a job as a travel agent or trialling out destinations and hotels for those with physical or additional disabilities as most people think because of what you have you shouldn’t have the same experiences as everyone else and I think this is unacceptable taking into consideration the amount of technology we have now so my main aim of this would be to make travel as accessible as possible.
  • Kick-start my singing career. I mentioned in my previous post I had an audition for Britain’s Got Talent. Unfortunately due to confidentiality I can’t really go into anymore detail but what I can say is please watch this space! I did meet the runner-up of last year’s show an incredible guy named Wayne Woodward and he said I could go to his home because he has a recording studio so Wayne if you’re reading please let’s do this!! I would love to record with Craig David too as his voice just blows me away every time. I have also applied for the next series of X Factor too so please keep your eyes peeled!
  • Go to more parties. Normally I love chilling out in my pyjamas watching TV but every time I log onto Facebook my friends are asking each other ‘do you want to go out this weekend?’. As I said there are a lot of things around my disability I have to think about but it isn’t cool when you have to go out with  mum or dad especially if you’re nearly 23 this year so I really need to start letting my hair down and interacting with peers my own age.

So here are my goals for 2017. It’s going to be a fantastic year.

A massive Thank You to all of you for your continued support with this blog.

Last year my blog reached 500+views which absolutely blew me away. Without your support I wouldn’t have the balls to keep increasing awareness of Cerebral Palsy and getting rid of any nasty stigma so please keep commenting  or sharing away via the comments section on my blog or Twitter . If you would like to ask any questions please e-mail me at francescadean@hotmail.com.

Sending hugs to each and every one of you.

Francesca X

#GivingTuesday, BBC Lancashire and Britain’s Got Talent!!

Hi Everyone!!

I hope you’re all having a great weekend?…

With Christmas just around the corner I think it’s so important to give back to charity whenever you can. You see, everyone thinks Christmas is full of presents, decorations, music, laughter and sparkle. Sadly, this isn’t the case for some of us it can be the worst time of year in the world.

In tonight’s blog I’m going to take you through some of my favourite charities and why they are so important to me. I also had a very exciting interview with BBC Lancashire talking all about this blog! Since I first started this I cannot believe the outpouring of love and support I’ve received so thank you all so much!! I have some excellent news about my Britain’s Got Talent audition so strap yourselves in guys!!

My Favourite Charities

Whizz-Kidz

Whizz-Kidz is a charity very close to my heart. Whizz-Kidz provide specialist equipment to children and young people with a huge spectrum of disabilities whilst promoting independence within each child and helping them live life to the full.

They also assist with mobility and life skills training. Back in 1998 when I was 4 with the help of my family and Whizz-Kidz we raised money for an electric wheelchair. At the time my mum was an ambassador for the charity and she made a speech all about me living with Cerebral Palsy. I may have only been very young but it still makes me smile to this day. My first wheelchair was a Permobil. I thought I was Michael Schumacher! because it came with headlights, 5 different speeds, indicators, a horn and I could raise and lower myself from the ground.

For me receiving a wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz was the icing on the cake for all of us as I no longer required anybody to push me in a manual wheelchair. I can’t begin to describe the amount of freedom I had running through my body, not being able to walk has and never will be an issue for me because walking is just an added bonus. Even though I had speech issues I am beyond grateful that my communication skills are  excellent now because I can blog and be an advocate for so many people. Without the help of Whizz-Kidz I think it would’ve been a completely different story. 22 years on and I can’t thank them enough.

My next charity of choice is Blackburn Youth Zone.

I became a member back in June and I can honestly say this has totally transformed my life. The Diversity Club runs from 10;00am-1pm . This club is for young children and adults with a very wide variety of physical and additional disabilities. We do loads of activities from arts & crafts to karaoke!! To become a member it costs £3 for yearly membership and 50p for each session. All the staff are incredible and they really do help us to thrive and realise our potential. Blackburn Youth Zone is a huge family and I would be lost without them

 

BBC Radio Lancashire

On Tuesday, I took part in an interview for BBC Radio Lancashire’s drive-time show. I contacted BBC Children in Need and told them all about my blog and the story so far. Just a few days later my mobile rang and a lovely journalist named Katy Booth was blown away by my story. Now here’s the scary bit. Katy also has Cerebral Palsy and she was born on my birthday September 28th.In my eyes the interview had to go ahead. Isn’t it crazy when similar stories and backgrounds bring people together?

The main purpose of the interview was to talk about the blog, my own thoughts on Cerebral Palsy and where I would be in 5 or 1o years time. When I first started CP & Me it was for fun and I thought I’d only get a handful of viewers but the numbers seem to increase day by day and I can’t really take it in that thousands of people all over the world are wanting to know about Francesca Dean and who she really is and I won’t stop writing either. Just knowing I’m helping somebody who has a completely different spectrum or if there’s parents pulling their hair out, constantly crying out for answers scrolling the internet means the world to me.

Britain’s Got Talent

After a few days wait my Britain’s Got Talent audition is this Saturday!! I can’t describe how I feel!! It will be a long day but it’ll all be so worth it. I’m more determined than ever to see the judges but my family and Blackburn Youth Zone are my main reasons for doing this because they’ve sacrificed everything to make sure I live life to full capacity. Blackburn Youth Zone have supported me from day 1 and they mean so much to me. My song choices are ‘I’ll Stand By You by Girls Aloud and ‘All We Needed by Craig David. If I don’t get through to see the judges I will be gutted. Your support means everything no matter which stage of the competition I reach please pick up your phones and vote for Francesca!!

I love you all so much!!

Francesca X

Carer’s Right’s Day

Hello everybody!

I hope you’ve all had a fabulous week?…

In today’s blog I want to explore with you all what it’s like becoming a carer especially if your loved one’s just been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The diagnosis can be shattering but with lots of smiles, a succinct support network, and sheer tenacity anything is possible. I must stress I’ve never been a  carer before but I have been able to witness the other side of the spectrum, because for the past 22 years since my diagnosis my family have prioritised everything to make sure I live my life to full capacity and that I wake up everyday smiling.

Carers… A few facts & figures

  • Around 6.5 million of us will become carers. If you’re no good at maths like me this is 1 in 8 people to be exact.
  • 6,000 people everyday take on the monumental task of caring for somebody with a serious illness, this equates to 2 million people every year. 58% of carers are female and 42% are male.
  • 625,000 people develop serious mental or physical health issues as a direct result of providing 24/7 care.
  • 3 million people face the incredible challenge of sustain their full or part-time positions within their current employment.
  • What I find disgusting is 1 in 5 people have no choice but to give up their careers altogether. Our loved ones may be seriously ill but what professionals need to realise is we all need to keep warm, food needs to be in our bellies, clothes need to remain on our backs, a safe and secure place to sleep at night and income needs to keep coming in. We all need to be united together not watching our livelihood’s and everything we work for go down the drain.
  • Right now there are 700,00 young carers in the UK. 68% of these are disgracefully bullied.
  • 1 in 20 young carers miss out in full-time education due to the nature of their caring role.

The Carer’s Allowance is the main source of income carer’s are expected to live on but at the same time carry out 50 hours of care a week. At the moment this comes to £62.10 which is supposed to allocate 35 hours of support each week. This figure comes out at £1.77 an hour which is less than the national minimum working wage of £6.70.

My Top Tips

I’ve had carers come and go but I guess that’s the way all cookies crumble. When you hire a care agency write everything down so they all know what’s expected and that there’s no room for error so consistency can remain in place for the person required and everyone else involved.

Adapting your whole life when a relative requires constant care can be draining. Allow for plenty of time to recharge batteries because as I’ve said previously we don’t have ‘Superhero’ written all over our faces. You’ll be surprised how a quick catch up with a friend followed by cake and coffee can make a huge difference.

When large meetings arise with professionals regardless if you have just recently received support. The trick is to lay all your cards on the table, stand up, be succinct and get straight to the point because these ‘professionals’ seem to think they can map your life out for you but this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s your life, your voice, your choices so please don’t be afraid to put your foot down wherever necessary.

What really angers me is little kids and teenagers are supposed to know each medication inside out when their relative has over 20 boxes of drugs to take. For some kids this may be normality but children of today should not be acting like nurses. There are too many medication side effects to mention. This task is huge and it can all go horribly wrong. Kids need a proper childhood.

Breaking bad news to younger siblings is never easy to do. Obviously they will ask questions and become emotional. Break it down into bite-sized pieces. If you are too technical they won’t understand the illness properly. Dependant on their age ranges distribute appropriate tasks, by taking this approach they won’t have the slightest clue their sibling is any different. Therefore family life can remain as harmonious as possible.

Sometimes, the emotional rollercoaster of having carers enter your home or taking on somebody else’s care can become too much.

To make sure everybody does their bit devise a rota so family can undertake equal responsibilities. Depending on the condition, teamwork is essential. I understand this isn’t always possible because personal circumstances change all the time but the more help received  you’ll be surprised at the change in everybody’s attitude and mentality.

If an elderly relative requires care depending on their mental capacity try to keep everyday as normal as possible.

To maintain independence  keep them involved in everyday tasks.

For example carrying out the weekly food shop. Choice is absolutely critical in this case because everybody likes their favourite food or they may still choose to buy certain branded products. If the person has Alzheimer’s or Dementia old photographs from their childhood or listening to music of their preference are fantastic activities because it’s amazing how much they can still remember.

I am so proud of Oritse Williams from boyband JLS for speaking about his own experiences when he became a young carer a1 the age of 12. His mum Sonia has Multiple Sclerosis. He also managed to speak to other young people about their own experiences when he made a  Channel 4 documentary named ‘Britain’s Youngest Carer’s’ back in 2009.  Despite his past he never gave on his passion for music. Not only did he become a member of one of the world’s biggest boyband but creating a better life for the whole family has now finally become reality.

Head back, shoulders and chest out loud and proud.

Francesca X

World Prematurity Day, World Toilet Day and some very exciting news!!

Hello everyone!!

I hope everybody’s having a delightful week?…

I’ve realised I missed a few very important days in my calendar, but better late than never!! In tonight’s blog I wanted to give you all my spin on these very important awareness days and why it’s so important to speak out.

World Prematurity Day took place this year on November 17th, and for me it’s one of the most poignant yet, as it allows us to celebrate the lives of truly remarkable people who despite being at a low birth weight and having very slim chances of survival, they have refused to let anything stop them. However, on the flip side of the coin, others are not so lucky.

World Prematurity Day… A few facts

  • Right now, 15 million babies around the world are born prematurely. The sad reality is 1 million children will not survive. Prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under 5. As I write this now a further 29 babies will enter the world prematurely.
  • Prematurity occurs when the birth of a baby arrives around the 37th week of pregnancy or after mum’s last menstrual cycle.
  • Smoking, Diabetes, Obesity, Drugs, and high blood pressure all increase the likelihood of premature birth as well as pre-eclampsia.
  • Just recently a new hospital approach named family centred care has been put into action designed to increase babies survival rate and reduce the chances of expectant mothers suffering from mental health conditions or post-natal depression. These problems are very prominent when a baby has a short or long term stay on a neonatal ward.
  • New statistics have also shown that many parents say that they don’t know how to play an emotional role when their baby is attached to tubes and wires. I find this absolutely heart-breaking because you’ve carried and created a new life in 9 months  and it all comes as part of the circle of life. The pregnancy and birth should be an amazing experience for the whole family regardless of your baby’s future.

I have a huge smile on my face as I write this next bit.

This may be a cliché but when I look back on the incredible things I’ve achieved in 22 years it gives me immense pleasure to say that I am a miracle baby who defied doctors odds straightaway, but this isn’t all down to me however, my parents have been massive towers of strength and are still allowing me to thrive and live life to the full.

Yes, prematurity does turn your life upside down because as a result I developed Cerebral Palsy but this has been in my opinion,  the best outcome because I’ve taken it upon myself to start this blog and document my spin on living with a physical condition but for me to write posts, get amazing comments on social media and watch the statistics rise. There aren’t enough words for me to summarise what this feels like. If you are going through a premature pregnancy or you’ve just given birth to a beautiful bundle of joy but you need some extra guidance please don’t bury your head in the sand.

Now… onto my next topic. World Toilet Day. This took place on November 19th and it’s designed to open our eyes about poor sanitation and to raise awareness for people who alarmingly don’t have access to toilets despite clean water. Using a toilet is a basic human right and it’s something we all take for granted and I think it’s absolutely horrendous because we now live in a world where everything is full of technology.

A few facts…

  • 1000 innocent children die from preventable diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water as well as extremely poor hygiene.
  • Low sanitation heightens the risk of disease and malnutrition especially in women and children.
  • 2.4 billion people (1/3 of our population do not have access to basic toilets but sanitation has improved.
  • 1 in 7 people have no unprecedented access to a toilet. Disgustingly,  they have to do their business out in the open.

What does World Toilet Day and Cerebral Palsy have in common? Well, even though I don’t come from a very poor country  I think speak for everyone when I say that toileting is one of the most common issues with CP because with the condition there are many varying severities so everyone’s different, but shopping centres and major attractions really do need to pay attention to the bigger picture  because their idea of an accessible toilet is a poky room with a toilet, sink and a hand rail but there is so much more to the spectrum than meets the eye.

Due to additional difficulties, through no fault of their own some wheelchair users have to wear products to help with this issue but what’s really needed is a fully accessible changing bed because personal care involves real intimacy and when this arises those who have physical disabilities need to be treated with the respect and dignity they so rightly deserve.

My final bit of news this week. After loving music and singing forever I have plucked up the courage to go on Britain’s Got Talent!! I’m still waiting on my audition details but as soon as I hear anything I promise you guys will be the first to know. After some very surprising reactions from my family they’ve been very supportive and for that I am so grateful. To get a head start I have been doing vocal warm ups and lessons The training is intense but I know it’ll all be so worth it.

There are no words to describe how I feel how about taking on the next part of my journey because this will change mine and my families’ life massively. The process is quite lengthy though because you have to see the producers first. If successful you see the judges and perform in front of 1000’s of people. I have decided to sing ‘I’ll Stand By You’ performed by Girls Aloud. I’m just praying I don’t get buzzed by any of the judges but what I really do want is the golden buzzer!!

As a little treat here is a video of me performing ‘Jealous’ by Labyrinth’. This song was performed again by last year’s X Factor contestant Josh Daniel!! I hope you like it! https://twitter.com/pwincessfran/status/799365417231859713

I hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s blog!

Francesca X