LOVE Island’s Danny Williams has opened up for the first time about his mum’s struggle with the chronic pain disorder fibromyalgia.
The model, 23, says it took a decade for mum Joanne Bassington to get a diagnosis – and things got so bad he was terrified she was going to die.
Danny, who is originally from Hull, said that initially Jo's condition had been manageable and she continued working as a special needs teacher.
But when Danny was about 13, her health took a turn and she was left in such severe pain that forced her to quit the job she loved.
Yet it would take another decade before she was finally diagnosed with the crippling pain condition, which some estimates say could affect almost one in 20 people.
During that time there were moments where Danny feared for his mum's health – and in particular one Mother's Day stands out in his memory.
'Scariest day of my life'
Danny, an ambassador for Fibromyalgia Action UK, said: “It was actually the scariest day of my life.
"I can’t remember what we’d done that day, but I remember her lying on the couch in the living room and she was almost having a fit with the pain in her stomach.
“We called an ambulance and I remember going with her and I just thought, is this it, is she going to die?
It was so frightening. I thought I was going to lose my mum
"I’d never seen her as bad as that, and it was scary because no adult ever lets their kids see them in pain if they can help it.
“I remember she was strapped into the bed in the ambulance and with every single bump on the road she screamed.
“She was in hospital for two or three nights, and the possibilities seemed to be everything from a stomach ulcer to pancreatic cancer.
"It was so frightening. I thought I was going to lose my mum.”
However, it was during this period the possibility of fibromyalgia, which is thought to affect more women than men by a ratio of around 7:1, came up for the first time.
Danny said: “I think it was a pretty junior doctor who mentioned it, and when mum got out of hospital she started doing some digging around, and eventually she got her diagnosis.
“It was through a process of elimination really, but the diagnosis in 2011, after years of brain scans, blood tests and hospital stays, made such a big difference.
“Finally, it meant she was on medication to manage her symptoms, and knowing what it was allowed her to take back control of her life."
Danny said that growing up, life could be unpredictable as they didn't know what was wrong with Joanne, so getting a diagnosis has been life-changing.
He said: “When I was younger it was so unpredictable because we just didn’t know how she’d be at any time.
"It could be quite messy and unstructured, and the not knowing meant it was quite preoccupying.
“Now though, she’s got her medication and she’s really worked out what she can and can’t do.
"If I go to see her up in Hull and she’s out gardening, it means she has already planned to have a slower couple of days after that.
“To get out of the house she relies on a scooter even for things like shopping, but she likes to feel productive and being able to plan her life around activities that might not seem much to the rest of us are really important for her.”
As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia can experience fatigue and muscle stiffness, headaches and digestive problems as well as problems sleeping.
But Danny, who now shares a bachelor pad in Essex with fellow Islanders Michael Griffiths, Jordan Hames and Chris Taylor, said that the condition can come with dreadful stigma.
“She was literally in pain on a daily basis,” he said.
“But one day it would be her back, then she’d have a horrible burning sensation in her hands and feet and another day she’d have a blinding migraine.
“Quite regularly she’d have this feeling that one side of her body felt different to the other, like her left side was numb, or she’d have a burning feeling and she couldn’t explain it.
"It’s bizarre, and trying to explain it to someone in the early days was really difficult.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of widespread pain and profound fatigue.
Symptoms include headaches, irritable bowel, clumsiness and dizziness, allergies, lack of concentration, and waking up tired and stiff from sleep.
Fibromyalgia pain can be felt as aching or burning, often described as head to toe.
It can be worse at some times than others and can change location, usually felt more severely in parts of the body used most.
The fatigue ranges from feeling tired to the exhaustion of a flu-like illness, and can come and go with people describing suddenly feeling drained of all energy.
People with a mild to moderate case can usually live a normal life, given the appropriate treatment.
But if symptoms are severe people may not be able to hold down a paying job or enjoy much of a social life.
For more information and support visit fmauk.org.
“At different times she thought it could be MS. Then there were periods of self-doubt when she felt like people thought she was just making it up.
“It was difficult for me to see it all, especially when it felt like a lot of what she was feeling and saying was almost dismissed and ridiculed.
"It does come with this stigma, and that was hard for me so I can’t even imagine what it was like for my mum going through it.”
It felt like a lot of what she was feeling and saying was almost dismissed and ridiculed
With lockdown easing, Danny has been able to travel north again to see Joanne, his stepdad Stuart, 41, and his younger siblings Kaley, 16 and 11-year-old Jak.
“Even though I don’t live at home, normally I’m up in Hull once a fortnight,” says the reality star.
“There’s nothing more important to me than family, and my mum means the world to me.
"Not seeing her for all those weeks was hard, but it was brilliant to see her again.
“Everything she’s gone through has made me the way I am in a lot of ways.
"I’m very fitness orientated and I’m into healthy eating.
"These things can happen to anyone, and with my mum, we just don’t know what triggered it.”
And despite his time on Love Island last year, Danny remains single – although he says his mum’s relationship with stepdad Stuart gives him hope for the future.
“Stuart came into our lives when I was four or five,” says Danny, who is also close to his dad Tony Williams.
"Stuart’s absolutely brilliant, and he got with my mum when she already had me and my sister Clare, who’s a couple of years older than me.
“The two of them got married and went on to have my little sister and brother, and after everything my mum’s been through with her health Stuart has been with her through thick and thin.
“They still wet themselves laughing at silly jokes and get on brilliantly. I know they’re the real deal.
"I’m single for now, and I’m happy to stay that way for the time being but seeing them together gives me hope that I’ll get the real deal myself one day.”
Joanne adds: “I’m incredibly fortunate to have my husband and children’s support as I know many suffer alone.
"I’m incredibly proud of Daniel and all he’s achieved and continues to achieve from a paper round at 13 to being where he is now, all through his hard work and determination.”
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