Authors Posts by Helen O'Brien

Helen O'Brien


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Dee's family
Dee's family
A deadly curse had hit my family but I refused to let it break us apart…
By Dee Evans, 41, from Hereford

The front door slammed.

“I’m back for tea, Mum!” my eldest daughter, Jasmine, 18, hollered through to the kitchen.

“Get the gang in from the garden and I’ll serve up,” I replied.

As the rest of the family spilled into the dining room, I could barely make myself heard to remind everyone to wash their hands before we tucked in.

Family life was always chaotic with five kids at home – Jasmine, plus identical twins Toby and Corey, 11, Amber, 10, and Izzy, six. When my oldest, Joe, 22, popped round we had a full house.  


That was just the way I liked it though. To be honest, if I’d been able to persuade my partner Jody, 35, I would have wanted an even bigger family.

Then, one afternoon the twins’ teacher caught me outside the school gates.

“Do you think the boys need glasses?” she asked.

Dee and her family
Dee and her family

“I haven’t noticed a problem, have you?” I said, worried.

“We’ve noticed them squinting a lot at the board,” the teacher told me.

So, I took them to the opticians, and they walked out with matching frames. But, the glasses didn’t seem to do the trick.

Soon we were seeing a specialist at the Victoria Eye Unit in Hereford County Hospital. After extensive tests, the doctor broke some devastating news.

“Your boys have got extensive scarring at the back of their eyes. It’s a degenerative eye condition.” he said.


“How do you fix this?” I faltered.

“I’m afraid they’re going blind,” he replied, gently.

My blood ran cold. My two gorgeous boys would never have the independence of learning to drive, or the thrill of seeing the world.

I learned that in time their vision would decrease until they’d be registered blind.

The only thing that gave me comfort was that we’d get through this as a family. The twins would never have to tackle a single obstacle alone.

Back at home, Jody and I broke the news to the boys in the best way we knew how.

“You’ve got magic eyes, so you’re going to need some more checks at the hospital,” Jody told them.

“It’s going to be difficult for you to see, but don’t worry because we’ll find other ways to do things instead,” I added.


My heart broke as the twins took the news in their stride, and dashed off again to play.

Jody with twins before diagnosis
Jody with twins before diagnosis

For the next few months we struggled on as a family, making sure the boys were getting extra help in school.

Then, a year ago I noticed that their vision suddenly seem to take a dip. Corey had stumbled into the doorframe and tripped.

“Watch your step son,” I said. I was worried though.

Then, last October, we shipped the kids off to Jody’s family in the Forest of Dean so we could have a bit of time to ourselves.

At first the peace and quiet was strange. But, just as we were beginning to relax the phone rang.

It was Jody’s dad.

“Corey’s had a seizure,” he said. “Can you get to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital?”


“We’ll be there,” I said, dashing to grab my handbag.

Jody looked panicked. But when I explained, he grabbed the keys and we ran out to the car. Our son had never had a seizure before, this was totally out of the blue.

By the time we arrived in A&E, Corey was just starting to come round. He gave me a groggy smile.

Jody’s father was there too, having arrived in the ambulance with Corey. The doctor came to talk to us.

“Don’t worry, with children these things can just happen,” he said. For the next few months, it seemed like it was a one-off.

Then, in December, the school rang.

“Toby has had a seizure at school,” I was told.


I immediately thought back to Corey, lying there limply in that hospital bed.

“Are you sure it’s Toby?” I asked. As identical twins, it was easy to get the two mixed up.

“It’s definitely Toby. Can you come down?”

He was kept in hospital overnight, after having a second seizure on the ward.

Over the next few months, more seizures followed. We got an appointment with an epilepsy clinic to get to the bottom of what was happening with my poor boys.

First their eyes, now this…

It didn’t even occur to me that their health problems could be connected, until I got a letter from the hospital.

They wanted to do some blood tests for further investigation, and mentioned a possible diagnosis of Batten disease.


I’d never even heard of it. So, naturally I got online to find out more. As I clicked through the search results on Google, an icy dread gripped me.

First eye problems and fits, then speech loss before patients are bedridden and eventually die.

Toby and Corey
Toby and Corey

I burst into tears, right there and then.

Surely that couldn’t be happening to our sons? I told myself.

I knew the symptoms seemed to fit though. So, I went out into the garden to find Jody.

“You need to see this,” I said, handing my phone to him.

He started scrolling down, before thrusting it back towards me.

“We don’t know anything yet, Dee,” he croaked, choked up. “Let’s hope it’s not.”

Soon the twins had blood tests, but in the meantime they got some results back from MRI scans. We were told these results were clear, and I took this as a huge positive.


Maybe everything will be fine…

Then, a few weeks later, in March, we travelled up to a genetic clinic in Birmingham to get the blood tests results.

“It’s juvenile Batten disease CLN3,” the specialist confirmed.

My mind reeled as I tried to take in all the information we were given.

“Unfortunately there is no cure, but we can help to treat the symptoms as they arise,” he said.

All I could think about was that my sons were going to die. The average life-span is late teens to early twenties. How was that fair?

Eventually, I stood up and walked out, tears flooding my eyes. I didn’t want the boys to see me cry. Then I forced myself to wipe my eyes and head back into the appointment.


I could see that Jody was struggling to hold it together too. The drive home was a blur. We put some music on for the twins, and got lost in our own thoughts.

We couldn’t say what we wanted to in front of them. We headed straight for Jody’s mum’s house, where we gathered the adults in the family together and broke the news.

There were tears and hugs but one thing was for sure… with family around us we’d pull through.

Our emotional ordeal was only just beginning though. As Batten disease is a genetic condition, Izzy and Amber would have to be tested too.

I had Jasmine and Joe with a previous partner, so it was some relief that they’d escaped the curse.

But Jody and I both carry the rare gene, and we’d unwittingly started a family.

I clung on to the hope that the girls would be okay. Statistically, it wasn’t a dead cert that they’d have Batten too.



I told the hospital to phone us with the results as soon as they had them.

Then, last month Jody picked up the phone and one look at him told me it was the news we’d been dreading.

“Amber’s clear, but Izzy’s got Batten,” he told me, white as a sheet.

Izzy at sports day
Izzy at sports day

My perfectly healthy little girl had a deadly disease.

“How is this fair?” I cried on Jody’s shoulder, as he pulled me into a tight hug.

“It’s not,” he said.

Our hopes and dreams for our children were shattered.

Now, when Izzy dresses up as a princess, it’s a stark reminder that we’ll never get to celebrate her wedding day.


Jody mourns that he’ll never take the boys for their first pint, or give them a hand with their first car.

Just a few weeks ago Toby told me he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

“That’s a good idea son, maybe,” I replied, knowing he’ll be in a wheelchair long before he can start a career.

This is why Jody and I have made the incredibly difficult decision not to tell the kids about their disease.

We want them to live for today, not worry that they’re dying.

We’ve confided in Amber though. She’s a smart kid, and we worried that it would only be a matter of time before she worked things out herself.

Jody sat down with her at the dining room table, helping her with some colouring books.

“You know what’s going on with the boys? We know why it’s happening now,” he told her.

She burst into tears.

“It’s all going to be okay, but they will be poorly. One day they might need wheelchairs,” he explained.

Then a little glint spread through her eyes.

“Can I push them in the chairs?” she asked.

My heart leapt. That’s her all over – always ready to be there for her siblings. Now she’s helping us to make special family memories.

The twins have been football mascots at Old Trafford in front of 50,000 fans, and we had a fantastic VIP tour at the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham.

We’ve also had casts taken of the whole family holding hands.


It’s not just the big things though. We want every single day to be filled with laughter and fun around the dinner table and in the garden.


Family and friends have been helping us to fundraise so we’ve got the money to make the most of the precious little time we’ve got with Corey, Toby and Izzy.

We’re also raising money for the Batten Disease Family Association, in the hope that one day extra funding will help to find a cure.

The condition is incredibly rare, affecting between just 30 and 40 children in the UK.

I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but I can’t help but wonder… why did it have to be three of mine?

Dee was keen to raise awareness of Batten Disease in the hope that one day, a cure may be found. Her family was also raising money for the Batten Disease Family Association, so we helped them sell their story to That’s Life! magazine. If you want to promote an issue or cause close to your heart, fill in the form on the right and we’ll talk you through how the process works.

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Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!
Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!
I’d volunteered to mow my parents’ lawn when I heard a sickening crunch…
By Victoria Hughes, 30, from Widnes, Cheshire

Draining the last of my wine, I put my glass down on the kitchen table and headed out to the back garden.

‘It’s all right Mum, I’ll do the lawn,’ I called out behind me.


My partner Chris and I had popped in to visit my parents that warm, June afternoon and I’d volunteered to cut the grass for them.

‘Do you really think that’s a good idea?’ Mum asked, looking first at my empty wine glass and then at my flimsy footwear.

It was a lovely summer’s day and I was wearing a summer dress and flip flops.

‘I’ll be fine, honestly. I like doing it,’ I replied, squinting into the sunshine.

I loved the outdoors and had always fancied myself as a bit of a gardener. I was definitely the green-fingered one of the family.

‘At least let me help you,’ Chris said as we moved benches and other garden furniture out of the way.

The lawnmower roared into life and I’d done most of the grass when Chris offered to finish it off for me.

‘Come on,’ he said. ‘I’ll do the rest. You go and sit down.’


I looked up and replied: ‘No really, I’ll have it finished in no time…’

As I was chatting to Chris, I absent-mindedly gave the mower a kick with my left foot – just as my hand was hovering over the on button, and I accidentally pressed it.

That’s when I heard a sickening crunch and a really strange feeling came over me. In that moment, I knew instantly what I’d done… I’d kicked the blade while it was turning, wearing flip-flops.

Victorias toe
Victorias toe

‘Are you ok?’ Chris said, rushing up to me. ‘I heard a horrible noise.’

We looked down where blood was gushing from my foot – and my big toe was flapping around, hanging on by a tiny piece of skin.

I hopped over to the back step where I sat down and surveyed the damage.

‘Oh my God, Victoria, I’m calling an ambulance,’ Chris panicked.

‘What’s going on? What’s happened?’ Mum asked as she came to see what all the commotion was about.


‘I’ve chopped my toe off,’ I replied, calmly. I think I must have been in shock, because although my toe was barely still attached to my foot, I didn’t feel any pain.

‘Oh no, hold it up – show me!’ Mum exclaimed.

‘I can’t, Mum. I’m holding it on.’

Dad rigged up a couple of plastic garden chairs and held up my foot, keeping it elevated. ‘Get down,’ he shooed our cat at the time, Phoebe, away. She was trying to lick my toe!

That’s when I began to feel hot and thirsty. ‘It must be the shock,’ Mum said. ‘I’ll get you a glass of water.’

I drained the glass and immediately asked for another one.

‘I’ve just got off the phone to the ambulance,’ Chris came back outside. ‘They said that because it’s a non-emergency we’d be better off bringing her in ourselves.’

Dad took one look at me, propped up on the garden furniture, and knew I couldn’t walk anywhere.

‘Right, we’ll carry you to the car, you can lie down on the back seat. Here, Chris, give me a hand.’

So Dad and Chris bundled me into the back seat of the car where I wedged my foot up on a head rest.

At Whiston Hospital, Cheshire, I was taken straight into X ray.

Victorias toe
Victorias toe

‘We need to get the wound cleaned up first,’ a doctor said, as they removed the grit and grass from my toe.

It was agony and I was given ketamine for the pain then.

‘There’s really not much bone left at all,’ a surgeon explained afterwards. ‘Just three tiny fragments. We’ll need to operate to insert a metal wire to encourage it to knit back together.’

The pain was excruciating by then and for the first time, I cried. ‘What if I lose my toe?’ I sobbed.


I was assured that there was enough blood flow in the skin still attaching the toe to the rest of my foot, to operate.

But it wasn’t until 12 noon the next day, that I was wheeled in for surgery. It was a complicated three-hour operation, which required both an orthopaedic and a plastic surgeon.

‘You had a lucky escape,’ my amazing surgeon, Mr Chan, told me afterwards. ‘The operation was a success. We’ve even managed to save the toenail. Wearing flip-flops, it’s a wonder you only damaged one toe.’

I spent the next three months sitting down while I recovered, wearing a cast up to my knee. It was hell, as I normally enjoyed such an active lifestyle.

My left leg withered because it wasn’t being used and looked like a sparrow’s leg! It took another three months to learn to walk on my foot again but thankfully, by January 2014, I was back on my feet.


This January, I was back in Whiston Hospital – giving birth to our little boy, Joshua, who was delivered by emergency Caesarean section.


The maternity staff were just as amazing as Mr Chan and the team who pieced my toe back together.

I haven’t been put off from mowing the lawn after my gory gardening experience – but now, I make sure I wear big boots in the garden!

When Victoria had her gory gardening experience she came to the team here to share her story as a warning to others. We helped her sell her story to That’s Life! magazine fetching the best price and reaching a wide readership. If you’ve had a gruesome experience in the garden or have any shocking health story with extreme pictures, why not contact us via the form on the right. We’ll then give you a call to explain how it works.

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Michelle sold her story to a newspaper and magazine
Michelle sold her story to a newspaper and magazine
I was over the moon when I finally married the love of my life. But my happiness wasn’t to last…
By Michelle Hoffman, 29, from Andover, Hampshire

As I opened my eyes, a sense of excitement washed over me. I stretched out in bed and smiled.

Today is the day I become Mrs Hoffmann!

Although I was a little nervous, I had waited a long time for this day. Alan, 36, and I were finally tying the knot after being engaged for seven years. We had been together for eight years in total, after meeting in January 2005 when we were set up on a blind date.


Ex-army, Alan was loud and proud, while I was much more shy and retiring – but we got on like a house on fire.

It wasn’t long before we moved in together and when Alan proposed a year later, at Christmas 2006, I was over the moon.

When I saw the ring – a beautiful gold band with three diamonds – I almost cried. I was so happy – I couldn’t wait to marry my hunky hero.

It was six years before we finally set a date and I spent a whole year excitedly planning my dream wedding.

We decided on Bournemouth Town Hall for the ceremony and booked a local bowls club for the reception.

We invited 70 of our closest family and friends to the event and I made everything myself, including the invitations, table decorations and the wedding favours.

I chose a beautiful sweetheart neckline gown, and my work colleagues helped to make me a wedding cake.



Alan was a shelf stacker at the local Sainsbury’s, and often spoke about his work colleagues as they all got on so well.

So when he asked if he could invite a group of them to the wedding, I instantly said yes.

Alan and Michelle
Alan and Michelle

‘It’ll be lovely to have them there,’ I smiled, and gave him a squeeze. I thought it was nice that he wanted them to be part of our big day.

‘Cool,’ Alan smiled back. ‘It’ll be good to see them – it’ll be good to have Gemma there too.’

Alarm bells rang in my head but I tried to ignore them. Gemma was a brunette bombshell who had recently started working with Alan at the supermarket.

He mentioned her name a lot, and often spoke about how they went for coffee and breakfast together before work.

I thought it was a bit strange that he spent so much time alone with Gemma, but I told myself that it was fine because he was always honest with me about how much he saw her.

Besides, I was far too busy with the wedding plans to dwell on it.

Our wedding day in September 2012 was absolutely perfect. Seven bridesmaids and three page boys walked me down the aisle and Alan and I exchanged vows in front of everyone who was important to us.

‘I love you babe,’ he whispered to me as we took our first dance, which was Something Right by Westlife.

I’d never been happier but I couldn’t help but notice when Alan kept disappearing to talk to his colleagues, including Gemma, who kept glancing at me.

Gemma third from left
Gemma third from left

I tried to push any worries out of my head. He was probably just checking they were having a good time. Besides, he’d just married me!

But the ink had barely dried on our marriage certificate, when Alan changed. Within a few weeks he became distant and less interested in sex.

At first I thought it was because we worked alternating shifts, but soon he started dropping Gemma into conversation more and more.


‘Gemma popped over for a catch up while you were at work,’ he said casually one day.

My instincts told me that something wasn’t right.

‘Why would she come here?’ I asked, but Alan just shrugged.

‘Why not?’ he said.

I didn’t want to make a fuss, but I felt threatened by Gemma.

She was younger, slimmer and prettier than me. And I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of her and Alan being alone together in my flat.

‘Is there something between you and Gemma?’ I asked tentatively, but Alan just laughed.

‘Of course not,’ he retorted. ‘Gemma and I are just really good friends that’s all, we work together. Besides, she has a boyfriend.’


Although Alan always insisted there was nothing going on between them, I couldn’t help feeling jealous by their friendship. But I trusted Alan, so I tried to bury my feelings about it.

But in January 2013 – less than four months after we married – Alan came home from work one day and said he needed to talk to me.

He stood by the sink, pretending to wash some dishes, when he blurted out the horrible truth.

‘I don’t love you anymore,’ he said quietly, and my heart shattered into a thousand pieces.

‘I can’t carry on like this Michelle – things aren’t right and they haven’t been right for ages.

Alan and Michelle
Alan and Michelle

‘We hardly see each other and when we do it just isn’t the same. You feel more like my little sister than my wife.’

His words hit hard – but I knew he was telling the truth, I could tell it in the way he spoke. But I also knew there was more to it than that.


‘Are you seeing anyone else?’ I asked, tears filling my eyes.

‘No,’ he replied. ‘But I do have feelings for somebody else.’

‘Is it Gemma?’ I asked, already knowing the answer.

Alan nodded, and devastation engulfed me.

‘Does she know?’ I asked, and Alan nodded again.

‘We’ve spoke about is, she feels the same and I want to see where things lead with her,’ he confessed.

I was heartbroken. We had only been married for a few months and already Alan was leaving me for somebody else.

How could he do this?


Alan insisted that nothing had happened with Gemma, but he claimed the feelings between them were too strong to ignore.

I wasn’t sure if I trusted him – how could you just leave your wife and partner of eight years for your work colleague who you had never even kissed?

It was made worse when friends of mine admitted they had seen Gemma and Alan out and about together on a few occasions – they obviously couldn’t keep away from each other.

Despite my heartbreak, I decided to take the dignified approach and tried to keep on good terms with Alan – even offering to move out so he didn’t have to.

I moved in my best friend Toni and tried to get over the betrayal. Meanwhile, I kept in touch with Alan.

Within a few months, he admitted that Gemma had broken up with her boyfriend and they were seeing each other. I was gutted – it meant my marriage was well and truly over.

Now, two years on, Alan is still with Gemma, while I’m still waiting for our divorce to come through.

Wedding photo
Wedding photo

I’m moving on but when I flick through my wedding photos, and look at all three of us smiling for the camera, it still breaks my heart.

I can’t believe my groom ran off with our wedding guest!

Alan says: “Before we were married it was pretty much over between us anyway. I was just too scared to not go through with it (the wedding). She had spent so much time setting it all up it just felt as though I couldn’t back out of it. I liked Gemma before the wedding, but it wasn’t until after the wedding that we realised how much we liked each other. Around the Christmas period it felt like it was all a big farce really, I realised that even though I was married to Michelle, I didn’t want to be with her because I had feelings for somebody else. I just remember coming back from work one day and standing at the kitchen sink and telling her that I didn’t love her and didn’t want to be with her anymore. She said to me: ‘Is there someone else?’ and I just said yeah.”

Wedding photos should be a precious reminder of a special day, but when Michelle looks at hers they break her heart. Because for her, her wedding album is a permanent reminder of her groom’s betrayal.  When Michelle discovered Alan’s betrayal she decided to sell her story to help her move on. We placed it in The Sun and That’s Life!, reaching a wide range of women and fetching the best price for Michelle.

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Nerine and Adam
Nerine and Adam


When I discovered I was pregnant my first concern was not over the labour – but how I’d get my squeamish hubby to attend the birth!
By Nerine Broomfield-Strawn, 39, from Havant, Hampshire

When Nerine Broomfield-Strawn, 39, discovered she was pregnant her first thought was not of the extreme changes her body would face or worries over the labour – she was more concerned about how she would get her squeamish husband to attend the birth.

Hubby Adam Broomfield-Strawn, 42, suffered from a phobia of medical procedures so extreme, even the thought of blood was enough to make him pass out.


Desperate to have Adam, a stand-up comedian, by her side, Nerine enlisted the help of a hypnotist to banish his fear.

Amazingly it worked and the proud dad was able to attend the birth of both of their two children.

Nerine, of Havant, Hampshire, said: “I should have been worried about the birth, but I was more worried about whether Adam would be OK.

“I don’t know what the hypnotist did but my squeamish husband held my hand throughout the birth and he was even able to cut the cord. It was amazing.”

When Nerine and Adam first got together she suggested they attend first aid classes together.

Nerine and Adam
Nerine and Adam

But as soon as the instructor started describing how blood cells work Nerine noticed her new fella was looking queasy. The next thing she knew, a green-faced Adam had collapsed in a heap on the floor.

So in February 2009 when Nerine, a hairdresser, found out she was pregnant she knew there was no way he would be at the antenatal classes – let alone the birth.


Desperate not to go through labour alone, Nerine begged her best friend, Georgia Watts, to be by her side.

She said: “In an ideal world it would be my husband holding my hand through labour, but I made Georgia promise to be there just in case.”

Keen to try anything to rid Adam of his irrational fear, the couple visited the maternity ward at the St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, where Nerine would give birth.

But ashen-faced Adam had to leave the tour early when he felt faint.

Nerine said: “He couldn’t even make it around the hospital – something about the clinical environment set him off.

“I knew we had to do something drastic. I was desperate to have him by my side and I knew he really wanted to be there as well.”

That night she went online to research ways Adam could beat his phobia.

She came across the website of a hypnotist in Bournemouth called Adam Eason who claimed he could help people deal with phobias – at a cost of £500.

Nerine said: “When I heard about hypnosis I reasoned that it had to be worth a shot.

“Adam was sceptical, but knowing how much it meant to me, he agreed to give it a go.

“My mum knew how important it was for me to have Adam holding my hand through the birth, so footed the bill for the therapy.”

Adam had his first session with the hypnotist on the day of the couple’s first antenatal class.


Nerine was stunned when her easily-nauseated husband made it through all the medical drawings and graphic descriptions of childbirth.

She said: “I kept looking over at Adam expecting the colour to drain out of his face – but he seemed absolutely fine.

“We were both gobsmacked. On the car journey home all we talked about was how the hypnotism had worked.”

Throughout Nerine’s pregnancy Adam attended weekly hypnotherapy classes. He even started repeating special mantras every morning to help him overcome his fear.

On November 6th 2009, Nerine gave birth to the pair’s first son Heath, now five, and Adam was by her side holding her hand throughout the birth.

Nerine said: “I was pleased he could be there and I know it was one of the most special moments of Adam’s life.

“He even managed to crack a joke while cutting the cord, he said: ‘I now declare this baby open.’”

The couple have since had another child, a daughter called Satine, now three, and Adam was able to attend her birth as well.

Nerine said: “Adam can even patch the kids up if they fall over and get a bloody knee now.


“He’s a changed man. I’m so glad he was able to see our children come into the world.”

Adam and Heath
Adam and Heath

Adam said: “After Nerine told me about the hypnotherapy I decided it was the only option.

“The sessions got me into a very calm state and taught me to push any negative thoughts away.

“I had my first session the day of the antenatal class. If I hadn’t had treatment I wouldn’t have been able to listen to anything at the class or last through any of the pictures or videos they show there without passing out.

“The birth was incredible, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

When Nerine and Adam went through the hypnotherapy sessions they decided to speak out to show what a profound effect it had on their family. We helped Nerine sell their story to The Sun as well as Real People magazine, reaching a wide readership and spreading awareness of how hypnotherapy can help in situations like these. If you have a weird or wonderful story you’d like to share, have a read through our ‘how to’ guides and then contact us to find out more about how it works.

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Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!
Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!
My sexy new neighbour was my MANE man, or so I thought…
By Victoria Tregenza, 36, from Camborne, Cornwall


Pulling open the curtains to find out what the commotion was, I pressed my nose up against to the window.


There was a removal van parked outside the house next door, and carrying boxes in his huge grip was a tall, dark and handsome man.

I’d not long split with my ex after ten years together and I’d been nursing a broken heart. This could be the welcome distraction I need, I jokingly thought to myself.

I didn’t have to wait long for an introduction. A few hours had passed before there was a knock at the door.

‘I’m Thor,’ my new neighbour introduced himself. ‘I’ve just moved in.’

‘I hadn’t noticed,’ I lied cheekily. ‘Nice to meet you.’

Thor was gorgeous and although I wasn’t looking for love, there was no denying he lived up to his name. He was like some kind of Norse God!

‘We should have a drink sometime,’ he added.

Victoria and Thor
Victoria and Thor

‘Of course!’ I replied, trying to contain my excitement.


A few days later, true to his word, Thor invited me for a drink at the local pub. He was gorgeous but he had a great personality too. A rare find.

We began spending more time together and before I knew it we were firm friends. It was hard to ignore the chemistry between us, despite my insistence that I didn’t want anything more.

I really liked Thor but my ex hadn’t long moved out and our lives were still very much intertwined. I even ran my horse-riding school on his land.

I’d been teaching for ten years and had spent the last eight years working hard to make my business work.

My grandmother had first sat me on a pony when I was just six months old and my obsession with horses grew from there. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t ride.

I simply couldn’t contemplate not having my horses. I devoted every day to them.

They were my life and I was lucky that my ex had been kind enough to allow me to carry on renting the land, after our split.

So I couldn’t deny that I felt guilty over my burgeoning feelings for Thor. I tried to dismiss them but with every hour I spent in his company, I fell more and more in love.

‘I really like you,’ said Thor, one night over a glass of wine.

‘And I like you too,’ I blushed, my cheeks turning red.

‘No, I really, really like you,’ he said leaning in closer, caressing my face with his huge hands.

Before I knew it we were kissing passionately on his couch. It felt so right, that a thousand wild horses couldn’t have stopped me. I was his.

From then on it was a whirlwind romance, and before I knew it, he was my mane man.

Thor was everything I’d ever dreamed of. We spent all of our time together but we hadn’t been together furlong when Thor made a shocking proposition.

‘I think we should move in together,’ he said.

I was taken aback by his suggestion. ‘But we’ve only been together for a few months,’ I reasoned. ‘Perhaps we should wait.’

Thor smiled and pulled me into his arms. He said: ‘We’re always with each other though and it doesn’t make any sense to be renting two homes.’

Victoria and Thor
Victoria and Thor

I thought about my horses, my business, there was no way my ex would allow me to continue to work on his land if he knew I had moved on so soon.

‘I’d have to give up everything I’ve worked so hard for,’ I replied. ‘This would be a huge step, a huge commitment.’

‘But we’re meant to be together,’ Thor said, taking me in his arms. ‘I have no doubt that we were made for each other.’

I melted in his embrace. He was right, and I felt the same. ‘Let’s do it,’ I whispered in his ear.


So with a heavy heart I sold the stables and moved in with my gorgeous stud.

Thor and I had been together for seven blissful months when we moved into a cottage in January this year.

Life with my sexy stallion was perfect – apart from Thor’s strange habit of using his phone in the middle of the night.

‘What on earth are you doing?’ I asked him one night, confused by the strange light of his mobile piercing the darkness.

‘Mind your own business,’ he snapped. I was taken aback by his reaction but closed my eyes and tried to forget it.

But when he continued to use his mobile in the dead of night, I confronted him.

‘Why do you have to use your mobile during such unsociable hours?’ I asked. ‘Are you hiding something?’

‘My mates and I like to chat together Vicky,’ he said. ‘Everyone is entitled to some privacy.’


He had a point. He didn’t have to share everything with me and I didn’t want him to. The last thing I wanted to do was smother him. I wasn’t that sort of girlfriend.

But the longer it continued, the more I was intrigued.  

So one day, when he left his mobile unattended, I seized my opportunity to find out what was really going on.

My stomach lurched as I found a message from a mystery woman. What time are we meeting tomorrow? It read.

I scratched my head and desperately tried to think of a girl that he might meet up with platonically… But he had told me he was working the next day.

Despite my snooping, I couldn’t keep this to myself. I had to confront him or I would have driven myself mad.

‘What is this?’ I said, showing him the text.

‘It’s just a work thing,’ he bristled. ‘You shouldn’t be looking at my phone anyway – it’s my private property.’

I backed down but the seeds of suspicion had been sown. I just couldn’t accept his explanation. What is he up to?

Later that day, we were driving to his mum’s house when she called Thor’s mobile. He was behind the wheel, so he handed me his phone to take the call.


But I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to investigate pass and quickly searched through his inbox.

My heart sank. I found countless messages dating back weeks between Thor and his mystery mistress – he even told her that he loved her and missed her. Sick!

‘Give me the phone,’ he shouted, trying to grab his mobile out of my grasp. Unable to retrieve it, he quickly pulled over the car. ‘Give it back!’ He yelled.

My fingers tightened their grip around the mobile, as I opened the passenger door and fled. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me until I finally found a quiet place to stop.

As I caught my breath, I scanned through his inbox of deceit. There, clear as day, was all the evidence I needed.

My eyes welled with hot tears. How could he do this to me?

I realised then that we were over.

‘Get out and don’t come back,’ I told him when we finally returned home after the drama. Unable to make any excuses for his behaviour, he sheepishly walked out of our cottage, where we were supposed to be starting a new life together.

I changed the locks and my family and friends rallied around me.

When he returned a few days later to collect his belongings he couldn’t resist one last dig.

‘I am not in love with you,’ he snapped. ‘I was never going to marry you.’

I tried not to bite back, but then the final twist of the knife came.


‘I love her more than you,’ he added.

I couldn’t believe he would sink this low – as if I wasn’t hurting enough.

I’d given up everything for him – my business, my beloved horses. How could he?

Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!
Victoria sold her story to Thats Life!

I was done with my naughty neigh-bour, for good. Finally, my ‘mare is over.

Thor says: “I have my reasons for parting with her. I understand that it’s perhaps an unusual situation but I think the worst possible situation is to publish it. What you’re doing is bringing up a lot of bad feeling.”

Victoria was devastated when she caught her naughty neigh-bour cheating, so she came to Sell My Story to get her revenge. The team here helped her sell her story to That’s Life! negotiating the best price for Victoria and reaching a wide readership. If you’ve been cheated on and you want to speak out, contact us via the form on the right and we’ll call you to explain what happens next.

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Ceri with Eleri and sister Becky
Ceri with Eleri and sister Becky
My daughter Ceri had everything to live for. But her life was about to fall apart…
By Eleri Linden, 50, from Colwyn Bay, North Wales

As she swung her overnight bag over her shoulder, I could hear the excitement in my daughter Ceri’s voice.

“This is going to be a good night,” she beamed. “Bye Mum!”

“Bye, love,” I said. “Have fun.”

Ceri had been through a really rough time. She’d suffered badly with depression and I felt she hadn’t got the help she needed from the health service.

Her relationship with her partner, Sam, had also broken down and their two-year-old daughter Bethan was living with him because of Ceri’s health problems.

It had been a tough few years for us all. But, finally, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. Ceri had an interview for a science course at a college in Chester.

She was so excited, she’d already put down a deposit on a student flat with two friends.

“If I pass, I’ll be able to apply for university,” she told me.

I was so proud. Ceri had always been top of the class and she had so much potential. Now, she and her friends had planned a big night out in Chester to celebrate.

They couldn’t wait to find out where all the best bars and clubs were.

Hopefully this time she’s turned the corner, I thought.

I’d been looking after Ceri’s beloved springer spaniel Bella while she was away. When she got home, I texted her asking if she wanted take her for a walk along the beach.

Within seconds, my phone had buzzed with a reply which made my blood run cold.

It read: I can’t. Something terrible has happened.

My insides twisted as I dialled Ceri’s number.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked, as soon as she answered. “You know you can tell me anything.”


Poor Ceri was crying so much I couldn’t make out what she was saying.

“I’m coming over,” I said, before jumping in the car and making the two minute journey to her house.

Ceri didn’t answer the door, so I ran upstairs to her bedroom. She was hiding under the covers and her eyes were red and blotchy.


“Mum, I’ve been raped,” she croaked, before breaking down in floods of tears.

Shock and horror rushed through my veins but I knew I had to keep it together for Ceri’s sake.

“Oh, darling,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Just start from the beginning and tell me everything.”

“I got into a car thinking it was a taxi,” she wept. “But the driver took me to his house and forced himself on me.”

I hugged Ceri as she explained she’d asked the driver to wait for her friends, but he’d sped off. He’d driven her to his home and ordered her to turn her phone off and go inside.

She’d refused at first but, scared of what he’d do to her, she felt like she had no choice.

“Then I managed to escape,” Ceri said, between sobs. “I ran as fast as I could and hid in a bush in the next street but I could see his car. He was driving around, looking for me.”


In hysterics, Ceri phoned her friend Carl, who called the police. Hearing the commotion a neighbour came out to see what was going on.

Shockingly, the neighbour showed Ceri no sympathy. She just bundled her into a taxi and sent her on her way, refusing to let her wait for the police.

“I just walked the streets alone for hours,” Ceri admitted.

My poor, poor girl.

“Why didn’t you call me?” I gasped.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” Ceri replied.

“But I’m your mum,” I said. “I’d have been there in a flash, if only you’d told me.”

On the bedside table, Ceri’s phone started buzzing.


“It’s the police,” she said, cancelling the call. “They’ve been ringing me ever since Carl phoned them.”

“Maybe best to answer,” I said, gently. “We don’t want this horrible man on the loose.”

Ceri and Bethan
Ceri and Bethan

In no time, there were two officers at Ceri’s door. They took a statement and I couldn’t believe how much she could remember about her attacker.

She described his car, what he looked like and where his house was. She even remembered what way his driveway faced.

“You’re so brave,” I told her.

The next day, Ceri was taken to Manchester for humiliating forensic examinations. I held her hand in the back of the police car as we travelled there.

“I don’t know if I can go through with this,” she told the officers, shaking. “I don’t want to face him in court. What if I’m made out to be a liar?”

But the police talked her round and eventually she agreed to give a video interview.


A few days later, we got the call we’d been waiting for.

“They’ve arrested a man called Masood Mansouri,” Ceri said. “He’s been refused bail.”

Masood Mansouri
Masood Mansouri

Even though she’d had a bit to drink, Ceri’s descriptions were so detailed the police had tracked her attacker down within days.

I hoped this would give her a bit of a boost, but she still seemed withdrawn and down. I stayed up all night chatting to her, trying to make her feel better, but it didn’t work.

She didn’t even want to eat.

“Why don’t I cook us a roast?” I suggested. “I’ll pop to the shops and get some really nice food.”

I knew my other daughters, Becky, 18, and Emma, 16, would enjoy a nice family dinner, too.

“Whatever,” Ceri shrugged.


Ceri was vegetarian, so I made sure I picked up some quorn chicken. I was only gone for around half an hour and I picked up a pastry to take back to her, too.

When I got home, she was still sitting on the couch, in the same position I’d left her.

We chatted as normal for around ten minutes before Ceri said the words which would change all of our lives forever.

“Mum, I love you,” she began. “But I’ve taken an overdose.”

Frantically, I quizzed Ceri on what she’d done. She was barely able to tell me she’d downed a bottle of my blood pressure tablets before she passed out, slumping on the couch.

I let out a scream so piercing Becky sprinted into the living room. My hands were shaking as I dialled 999.

“I need an ambulance, now!” I choked. “My daughter’s taken an overdose!”

For the next half hour, Ceri slipped in and out of consciousness, struggling for breath, but there was no sign of the ambulance.


Poor Becky had to hold her sister’s mouth open to help her get some air in her lungs.

“Where are you?” I screamed down the phone at the ambulance call handler. “Why haven’t you come?”

“I’ll make sure an ambulance comes now,” she assured me. Around fifteen minutes later, sirens came screeching down the street.

But just as they placed Ceri on the stretcher, she had a massive heart attack.


Deep down, I knew we’d lost her, but I ran to my car and Becky, Emma and I followed the ambulance to hospital.

“It’s not looking good,” a doctor warned us.

The next few minutes passed in a blur. Becky and Emma were hysterical and I tried to comfort them, but nothing could calm them down.


Eventually, I spied a sombre looking doctor walking towards us.

“We’ve tried to resuscitate Ceri but there’s nothing more we can do,” she said, solemnly.

We clung to each other and cried as she asked for our permission to turn off Ceri’s life support machine.

“Do you want to say a final goodbye?” she asked, but it was too painful. We didn’t want to remember Ceri lying lifeless on a hospital bed.

I couldn’t understand how my beautiful, clever, loving girl was gone. She was just 20.

For the next few months, we were lost in a haze of grief. Without Ceri, life seemed pointless but Bethan gave us a reason to go on.

“Where’s my mummy?” she’d ask.

“She’s in the stars, darling,” we’d reply, choking back tears.


In time, Masood Mansouri, 33, appeared at Chester Crown Court, charged with rape, kidnap and sexual assault. Ceri’s video evidence was played to the jury.

I couldn’t face sitting in court listening to Mansouri’s lies, so I read about the case in the papers. It made me sick to my stomach when he told the court Ceri had come onto him in the taxi.

I thought: Why would my beautiful girl touch a monster like you?

Finally, on April 30 this year, I got a call from the police.

“Mansouri has been found guilty of all charges,” an officer told me. “He got thirteen years in jail.”

She added that he’d probably be deported back to his native Iran when he was released.

It was the first time in British legal history that a rapist had been convicted without the victim being cross examined by the defence.


I burst into tears but soon my relief turned to anger. This man’s actions had driven my lovely Ceri to her death and nothing would bring her back.

Like many rape victims, she’d have been traumatised at the idea of taking the stand against Mansouri and I know the thought of being cross examined would have terrified her in her final days.

I can only hope her case might spare other girls the trauma of giving evidence in court after a sexual assault.

The pain of losing Ceri rips me apart every day but it gives me some comfort to know she helped put her attacker behind bars, where he can’t hurt another innocent girl.

When Eleri lost her daughter in such tragic circumstances she was lost in grief, but she was able to find some comfort in the fact she helped put her attacker behind bars, protecting other women.  We helped her sell her story to a newspaper and two magazines, as a tribute to her daughter and also to raise awareness to other young women. If you’d like to share a story with the national press, fill in the form on the right and one of our team will give you a call to gently talk you through the process.

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Michelle sold her story to Take a Break
Michelle sold her story to Take a Break
I was in denial about my size, until a holiday snap gave me the hump…
By Michelle Cottam, 31, from Neath

The hot sun shone brightly as we made our way across the gravelly path to the camels.

The animals sat in huddles at the base of the large black rock with seats hung over each of their humps.

‘Oh my goodness,’ I said with a huge grin on my face. ‘They are lovely!’

I’d never seen a camel in real life before and immediately got my husband Gary, 53, to take a snap of me beside the big beasts.

This will be one for the photo album, I thought to myself.


I was wearing a pretty, frilly vest top and although I’d been struggling with my weight, I felt good.

Michelle with the camel
Michelle with the camel

We were in Lanzarote with our one-year-old son, Sam, and counting calories couldn’t have been further from my mind.

I’d stuffed some lovely but baggy size 20 outfits into my suitcase and thought nothing more of it.

We even had a private pool which meant I could happily swim with my baby – something I would never attempt at home. I didn’t want people sneering at my rolls of flab in a bathing costume.

I hadn’t always been big. I’d been slim until my late teens when my lifestyle suddenly changed. I started partying with friends and on boozy nights out, I’d down bottles of sugary alcopops before grabbing a greasy kebab on the way home.

Then during the day, I’d binge on convenience foods like pizza before feasting on a Chinese takeaway after a busy day at work.

I was a sucker for special fried rice and I loved tucking into a huge portion of duck in plum sauce. I couldn’t get enough.


But although my junk food diet had taken its toll on my frame, in truth, I took no notice. By the time Sam came along in March 2011, my diet had taken a backseat to life as a busy mum.

However as my weight soared to a giant 18 stone, my confidence plummeted. I loved playing with my little boy but I refused to join a mother and toddler group for fear of being judged and I dreaded Sam starting school.

I hated the thought of being the fat mummy at the school gates. I vowed to slim by the time Sam was school age – but there was plenty of time for that…

Then one day, shortly after our holiday in the Canary Islands, I was browsing through our sunshine snaps when I came across the camel picture.

I immediately got the hump. I looked enormous!

My cheeks burned red with shame as I realised I had more lumps and bumps than the camel. I was horrified.

I’d been in denial about my size until then, but that unflattering photo was the straw that broke the camel’s back.


‘I had no idea I was that big!’ I said to Gary, ashamed. ‘How can anyone look big next to a camel?’

‘I love you no matter what,’ Gary replied, as he wrapped me up in a reassuring hug. ‘You’re beautiful to me.’

Michelle before weight loss
Michelle before weight loss

I replied: ‘But I’m not beautiful to me.

I had to change, and fast. I looked into diet plans and decided to kickstart my weight loss by swapping two meals a day for health shakes.

I was surprised how easy it was to substitute processed junk foods with the vitamin-filled drinks. They were so filling, I didn’t even miss my old habits.

The pounds fell off and within 18 months I’d shed an incredible seven-and-a-half stones.

‘You know I don’t care what size you are but you look amazing,’ Gary said to me one evening, eyeing me up in a beautiful maxi dress.

I blushed. I could only have dreamed of wearing a tight, floor-length gown before my weight loss.


I used to try and hide my flabby frame under unshapely clothes but now I enjoy flattering my 10-and-a-half stone, size 12 body in skinny jeans and slinky dresses.

My life has completely changed and my confidence has soared.

Michelle now
Michelle now

Sam is now four and when he starts school in September I’ll have no concerns about picking him up  at the school gates. I’ve gone from a ten-ton mum to a yummy mummy.

That horror holiday snap may have given me the hump but I owe an awful lot to that camel!

Michelle was mortified when her holiday snaps came back and one photo in particular gave her the hump! It spurred her on to lose seven stone though so she came to Sell My Story to share her slimming success, selling her story to Take a Break, inspiring countless other women. If you’ve lost weight and want to tell your story, fill in the form on the right and we’ll give you a call to explain how it works.

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Cheryl with her son Danny
Cheryl with her son Danny
I was looking forward to a week of sun, sea, and sangria. But my relaxation plans soon came crashing down…
By Cheryl Reynolds, 29, from Edinburgh

Clocking in for my shift at the hospital, I gave my workmate Jennie a wide grin.

“Let’s book it later,” I said.

We both had annual leave coming up, and we’d decided to treat ourselves to a break abroad.

After all, as hardworking nurses we deserved to put our feet up for a while.

Images of the clear blue sea lapping at the shore were all that was keeping me smiling through my long shifts.

I wanted a complete change of scene. I love my home in Edinburgh, but somewhere more exotic would be a very welcome change.

My son Danny, two, would be at his dad’s that week so the timing was ideal. So, later that day we got on the computer to start looking at the deals.

“I just want somewhere hot and sunny,” I said.

“Well there’s a great offer here for Lanzarote,” Jennie replied.

I’d never been before, but it seemed to fit the bill.

“The Canary Islands are great,” Jennie assured me, entering our bank details.

I couldn’t wait. Although our holiday was only weeks away, the days seemed to creep by.

In the meantime I decided to check out our destination online, to see what I had to look forward to.

I clicked through pictures of beautiful long beaches and scrolled through promising weather reports.


But then, I spotted a detail that chilled me. I didn’t know Lanzarote was a volcanic island!

I’ve always had an irrational fear of volcanoes. The thought of waves of molten lava engulfing towns, villages and people made me shudder.

You didn’t tell me we’d be sleeping next to a volcano! I texted Jennie

She told me off for being such a worrier. After all, we were going on holiday to relax.

As our date of departure in March drew closer, I popped in to see my mum to say goodbye.

“Look after yourself,” she made me promise.

I rolled my eyes, and gave her a hug.


She said: “Before I forget, I’ve got something for you.”

Mum waved a sheaf of paperwork in my direction. I was confused.

“I’ve sorted your holiday insurance, love,” she explained.

Getting insurance hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was sure I wouldn’t need it, even with a volcano just up the road. I tucked the papers safely in my bag though.

“Thanks Mum,” I said.

Just days later Jennie and I checked in at the airport. We couldn’t be happier to be jetting off for our sunshine break.

As soon as we stepped off the plane I felt a wave of humid, warm air wash over me.

This is ideal, I thought, the heat already relaxing my tired muscles.


We settled in at the hotel complex with plans to get up bright and early the next day to explore.


So, after a good night’s sleep we headed down to reception to get some tips of where to go.


“There’s a lovely beach just over the road,” the receptionist said.


“Sounds good to me,” I said.


My pale Scottish skin was ready for some sun, so I’d already pulled on some little shorts and a vest top.

Cheryl on the beach just before accident
Cheryl on the beach just before accident

We followed her directions and minutes later we stepped out onto the rocky shore.


“Ooh it’s the scary volcanic rock,” Jennie joked.


I said: “Don’t remind me.”


I’m a natural poser so I was soon mucking around on the stones as Jennie snapped away with her camera.

She gasped as I flipped up into a headstand, right by the water’s edge.

“Let’s get a nice picture now,” she said.

I wandered over to a bank of rocks stacked along the rear of the beach. Then I pulled myself up onto a big flat boulder.

I perched in a flirty pose with one hand on the rock beside me, while Jennie stepped back for a good shot.

“That’s a fantastic one,” she said.

“Your turn now,” I said.

Cheryl on the beach just before accident
Cheryl on the beach just before accident

I wriggled forward to hop down for my chance behind the camera.

Then, I felt the rock beneath my hand crumble away.


I barely had time to scream as the stone I’d been safely sitting on just moments before rocked forward.

Then the whole bank of rocks tumbled down on top of me.

I’m going to die, I thought.

Seconds later I opened my eyes to clouds of dust. My survival instincts kicked in and I dragged myself through the gap I’d landed in.

I knew there could be a second avalanche, and I didn’t want to be there when that happened. That’s when I collapsed, winded and covered in blood, at Jennie’s feet.

My left foot was turned inwards at a sickening angle, and my shin bone was poking out of my leg. I couldn’t even feel my foot.

Being a nurse, I knew this wasn’t good.

Aftermath of the rockslide
Aftermath of the rockslide

So, in a snap decision, I twisted my foot back into position to make sure the blood was still flowing.


Meanwhile, Jennie was just staring open-mouthed at me in utter shock.

“I think I’ve broken stuff,” I said. Then I started screaming.

A Spanish guy ran over to help. He pulled off his canvas backpack and pushed it down hard on my leg to stem the spurting blood.

Then an English firefighter who was there on holiday dashed across too.

“Just stay still, there’s an ambulance on the way,” he said. A crowd quickly gathered, with everyone trying to help.

There was a young woman pouring cold water over me to stop me going into shock. Others shared encouraging words, telling me to keep calm and reassuring me I’d be alright.

Then my vision went completely black and I battled to stay conscious until the ambulance arrived.

The firefighter helped to carefully shift me onto a spinal board. Then the paramedics injected me with morphine, and I drifted into a haze.


At the hospital doctors and nurses swarmed around me. I groaned in agony as they scrubbed at my wounds to clean the dirty volcanic dust away.

The pain was like nothing I had felt before. It was even worse than childbirth!

After x-rays I was diagnosed with a compound tibia and fibula fracture, and my pelvis was shattered in four places.

At least I’m alive, I told myself. Those rocks could have killed me.

Eventually my leg was splinted with a plaster cast and I was wheeled off to a bed on a ward. Jennie was still by my side, gripping my hand.

Cheryl in hospital
Cheryl in hospital

“Don’t worry, I’ll get in touch with your family,” she said.

That’s when I remembered the paperwork my mum had given me.

I said: “I’ve got travel insurance too. Can you call them?”


It’s a good job Mum is such a worrier after all, I thought.

For the next three days Jennie spent hours on the phone to the insurance company while I was laid up in bed.

It wasn’t the relaxing break either of us had imagined.

“Make sure you’re still working on your tan,” I said to Jennie.

I didn’t want her holiday to be ruined, just because my sunbathing plans had come crashing down.

She was by my side for visiting hours every single day though. Instead of cocktails and sunloungers, we had hospital drips and my big metal bed.

“At least we got a couple of holiday photos in first,” I said.

Jennie showed me that final picture on her camera.


It was strange seeing myself looking so happy, with no idea what would happen just seconds later.

I’d need surgery for my broken bones, but the waiting list was huge. So, the insurance company arranged for me to be transferred to a private hospital.

That’s where doctors discovered I had an internal bleed. They explained a shard of my pelvis had nicked an artery.

I had four pints of blood pumped into me, before I was rushed off for a lifesaving operation.

The surgeon fixed external frames to support my leg bones and my pelvis too.

Ten days later I was flown back to Scotland in an air ambulance.

My mum was so relieved to see me, and Danny crawled up onto the hospital bed to give me a big hug.

Learning to walk again
Learning to walk again

I spent another few weeks in hospital in Edinburgh, where I had another operation to permanently pin my leg into shape.

Within a week I was defying doctors’ expectations, hobbling around with a walking frame. They’d said I would be bed bound for six weeks.

Now, several months later, I’m still relying on crutches while my leg fully heals.

I knew that volcano would get me somehow, but I wasn’t expecting to be struck by an avalanche of rocks.

I’ll never forget my Lanzarote holiday – I’ve got Jennie’s beach photo to remind me!

Cheryl was looking forward to some sun, sea and relaxation when she got stuck in a Lanzarote landslide. When her friend showed her the picture to prove it, she decided to share her shocking story with the readers of Take a Break and The Sun. If you’ve had a holiday disaster and would like to sell your story, complete the form on the right and one of our team will give you a call to talk you through the process.

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Deborah sold her story to Take a Break
Deborah sold her story to Take a Break


I should have been over the moon when my Anthony proposed, but I had a big fat problem…
By Deborah Goodchild, 43, from Swindon

Slumping on the sofa, I reached for the family-sized packet of crisps next to me. After a hard day at work, I often came home feeling tired, so I ate to make myself  feel better.


After the crisps, I then scoffed a whole large bar of chocolate – and that was after having a massive curry for tea.

But snacking only helped me feel better for about half an hour, and then I was back to feeling lethargic and depressed.

My weight became a problem after I gave birth to my daughter, Ashleigh, now 23. Diagnosed with bad postnatal depression, I comfort ate my way through the dark moments.

I’d start the day with a pile of toast dripping with butter, lunch would be a mayonnaise-filled sandwich, then I’d snack on piles of chocolate, biscuits and crisps all day.

I’d then devour a takeaway for dinner followed by even more chocolate and crisps before bed.

It was hardly a surprise when my weight crept up to a staggering 19st 5lbs, and I hid my hulking frame in drab size 28 clothes. And although I tried to convince myself I didn’t care, I felt frumpy and unattractive.

Deborah before her weight loss
Deborah before her weight loss

It didn’t help that shopping was such a nightmare – I was limited to plus-sized shops like Evans and specialist stores online.


I didn’t like going out with friends as I could never find anything nice to wear, so I just stopped going out altogether.

I was lucky though – my partner Anthony, 44, loved me for who I was, and was more than happy to snuggle up with me on the sofa with a massive pizza and a tub of ice-cream.

We got together in 1998 and hit if off straight away – I knew he was the right man for me. A year later, on Valentine’s Day, Anthony took me out for a romantic dinner and suddenly proposed.

My heart flipped when I saw the sparkling engagement ring, and I couldn’t stopped myself from beaming.

‘Yes, of course I’ll marry you!’ I squealed and threw my arms around him.

But as he slid the ring onto my finger, I had a horrible thought. My excitement quickly turned to dread when my thoughts turned to our big day.

The vision of being a wide bride, waddling down the aisle, filled my mind with horror. I wasn’t sure I could find a dress to fit me – I would be a total embarrassment.

‘Let’s wait a while before setting the date,’ I told Anthony, as we talked about wedding plans. ‘Let me lose a bit of weight first.’


But a year later, I gave birth to our son Kyle, now 15, and piled on even more weight. I was so busy taking care of my new baby, all thoughts of the wedding were put on hold.

But every now and again, Anthony would bring the subject up.

‘I’d like to set the date soon Deb,’ he said gently. ‘It’ll be wonderful to be a proper family at last. I really want you to be my wife.’

I felt my heart hammering in my chest. I said: ‘What’s the rush?’ feeling under pressure. ‘Everything is fine as it is, plus I want to lose some weight before I go near a wedding dress anyway.’

I could tell my response disappointed Anthony, but I just couldn’t get married while I was this fat. So I vowed to make a change.

The thing was, every time I started a diet I soon gave it up – it just felt too difficult. I always started with the best of intentions, but a week later I would find myself giving in to sugary treats and junk food because I felt low and tired.

Deborah before her weight loss
Deborah before her weight loss

I deserve a treat – I’ll just start again on Monday, I always thought to myself, but then it would happen all over again.

More years passed by – an incredible 13 in fact – but still no wedding. While friends made harmless jokes about me putting off the wedding, Anthony started getting more and more impatient.

‘Do you not want to marry me?’ He asked one night in March 2012, obviously hurt at my reluctance.

‘Of course I do!’ I replied. ‘More than anything.’

That night, something snapped. I didn’t want to hurt Anthony and I did want to marry him – just not like this.

I longed to be his wife and realised that the only obstacle standing in my way was me. So I looked for a local Slimming World group in my area and attended a meeting a few days later.

Surprisingly, I found the diet easy to follow and I really enjoyed learning how to cook healthier meals.  

I swapped the buttery toast for a bowl of fruit, the sandwich for a healthy salad, the chocolate for fruit and instead of ordering a greasy curry from the local takeaway, I would make my own healthy version.

Soon, the weight was dropping off me – and I was over the moon when I lost a stone in just three weeks!


Even Anthony and Kyle enjoyed the new meals, and as my energy increased we started doing more out and about as a family. I started running, cycling and even bought a treadmill.

As my dress size shrunk, I rediscovered my passion for shopping and fashion and started buying flattering outfits to wear.

People started doing a double take in the street when they saw me and complimented me on my appearance.

I even started asking friends if they fancied going to the pub for a drink or for a night out on the tiles – something I hadn’t done in years.

Deborah now
Deborah now

‘Wow, you look amazing – it’s like I have myself a brand new woman,’ Anthony joked as I was getting ready for a night out. ‘Well done love, I’m proud of you.’

Before my weight loss, the idea of going on holiday abroad filled me with dread – there was no way I’d be seen dead in a swimsuit, but I found myself perusing holiday websites in search of an exotic getaway – my confidence had never been higher.

My weight loss was slow and steady. I was determined to keep it off for good. Whenever I thought about slipping up, I reminded myself about how much I wanted to be a blushing bride – not a bulging bride.


Finally, in August 2014, I felt confident enough to book the wedding.

‘Let’s do it,’ I grinned at Anthony. ‘Let’s pick a date and get everything booked for our big day.’

Anthony beamed – he was over the moon – and so was I! I was confident that I could now walk down the aisle feeling like a glamorous bride – instead of being the size of a house!

We booked the local register office for August 2015, and invited 50 guests to a hotel bar for the evening reception. I even asked Kyle to give me away, and he was thrilled.

‘I’m so chuffed you’re finally doing this, Mum,’ he said, giving me a hug. ‘It’s about time!’

Shopping for wedding dresses was an exciting but daunting experience – and something I never quite believed would happen.

I took my friends for support, and as I didn’t have a clue what sort of style I wanted, I tried on a few before settling on a beautiful gown.


Standing in that gorgeous dress, I beamed as I faced the mirror. I felt attractive – and amazing!

I was thrilled when the store owner told me that I would have to get it taken in before the big day.

Deborah now
Deborah now

To date, I’ve lost a staggering seven stone and at 12st 5lbs I’ll glide down the aisle in a size 14 dress.

I can’t believe that after a 16-year engagement, it’s finally happening. I had my perfect man all along – but now I’ll have the perfect wedding body to match.

Deborah was so mortified at the thought of waddling down the aisle as a wide bride that she put off long-suffering fiance for 16 years! So when she lost a whopping seven stone to marry the man of her dreams, she was understandably proud of her slimming success and wanted to share it with other women. We helped Deborah to sell her story to Take a Break, reaching a wide audience and fetching the best price. If you’ve lost a large amount of weight and want to share your story, fill in the form here on the right and we’ll call you to discuss your options.

by -
Louise and Josh
Louise and Josh
I thought I could trust my friend Dannielle with all my secrets. But was she hiding something?
By Louise Wright, 25, from Lancaster

I took a deep breath as I opened the door to find a friendly looking couple waiting on the doorstep.

“Hey,” the girl grinned, “Nice to finally meet you. I’m Dannielle.”

I’d just moved to a new city to be with my boyfriend Josh. We’d met on Facebook through mutual friends and it wasn’t long before romance blossomed.

Now, Josh wanted to introduce me to his friends. He’d invited his mate Sam and his girlfriend Dannielle round for a drink.

They’d all known each other for years so I was a bit nervous I’d feel like the odd one out but I needn’t have worried.


Soon, Dannielle and I were gossiping like sisters.

“You and Josh are perfect together,” she grinned. “I’m so glad you’re happy.”

At the end of the night, she gave me a huge hug and we swapped numbers. Within weeks, we were the best of friends.

Dannielle introduced me to her daughter, Angel, then two, and I loved going on days out with them to the park.

Louise and Dannielle
Louise and Dannielle

We also loved girly shopping trips, hunting for all the best bargains in Primark and New Look.

“Gorgeous!” Dannielle would beam, as I modelled the latest party dress I had my eye on.

But, a few months later, I started to feel a bit off colour. When my period didn’t come as usual, everything started to fall into place.



I took a pregnancy test and my stomach flipped over when two blue lines appeared.

How will Josh react? I thought. We haven’t planned this…

When he came home from his work at a tyre factory that evening, I took a deep breath.

“I’m pregnant,” I said, waiting nervously for his reaction.

“That’s great news!” he said, scooping me into a hug. “I’ve always wanted to be a dad.”

But there was one other person I was bursting to tell. I scrolled through my phone until I found Dannielle’s number and I tapped out a text.

Guess what? I typed. I’m pregnant!

Within seconds, my phone buzzed with a reply.


Congratulations! Dannielle had written. Angel will have a new friend!

Nine months later, little Jessica came along. Both Josh and I were smitten as she was placed on my chest for the first time.

“Hello, gorgeous,” I whispered, stroking her hair.

I couldn’t wait to get Jessica home and as I snuggled up with my perfect family, I felt like the luckiest woman alive.

“She’s perfect,” Josh cooed.

But soon, cracks began to appear. The sleepless nights were taking their toll and often Josh and I would snap at each other.

I knew I could turn to Dannielle for advice. She’d been through the same thing with Sam when she’d had Angel.


She told me: “It’s always hard at first. But things will work out when you’ve settled into a proper routine.”

Over the next few months, Dannielle was always on hand if I needed a cuppa and a chat. Plus, Angel was great with Jessica.

She was a lifeline, as all of my family and my old friends lived miles away.

“I’m so lucky to have a mate like you,” I said.

But Dannielle wasn’t just great with me. She gave loads of advice to Josh, too.

One night, he shut himself in the bedroom for hours and I could hear him talking on the phone.

“Who was that?” I asked, when he finally came downstairs.

“Just Dannielle,” he replied. “I was talking a few things through with her.”

The next day, Dannielle told me she’d been giving Josh some relationship advice.


“You two will work through your problems,” she said, squeezing my hand. “You’re made for each other.”

“I hope so,” I replied. “I really love him.”

“Why don’t the four of us have a drink?” she suggested. “Just like old times? We all deserve a bit of fun.”

I agreed we should let our hair down. The next night, Dannielle and Sam came round to ours and we had a laugh and a few drinks.

Sam had gone to the loo when I popped into the kitchen to refill our glasses. I was a little shocked when I walked back into the living room and Dannielle was playfully stroking Josh’s arm.

But I put my fears to the back of my mind.

The two most important people in my life would never betray me, I thought.

Over the next few weeks, though, Josh and I weren’t getting on any better. We couldn’t go more than a few hours without rowing and I felt really lost and alone.



In need of a pick me up, I reached for my phone and dialled Dannielle’s number but it rang out.

That’s strange, I thought. I’m sure she’ll call back soon.

Hours passed before Dannielle sent me a text, saying she’d been busy. Over the next few days she seemed a bit distant, but I shrugged it off.

Louise and Josh
Louise and Josh

But the next afternoon, I got the biggest shock of my life.

I decided to take Jessica into town to do some shopping and, as I pushed her buggy down the street, a bus drew up beside me.

My legs almost buckled beneath me as I saw two familiar figures waiting in the queue to board.

It was Josh… and he was hand in hand with Dannielle! As he planted a kiss on her cheek, I started to shake violently.

I was in such a state that the bus had driven away before I’d had the chance to confront them.


Once I’d gathered myself together, I took my phone from my pocket and typed in Josh’s number.

“I’ve just seen you getting on a bus, hand in hand with Dannielle,” I said. “Care to explain what’s going on?”

The line went silent for a few seconds before Josh spoke.

Eventually, he said: “I’m sorry, Louise. It’s been going on for a few months. I love her.”

I almost collapsed with shock. Dannielle had been a shoulder to cry on, but all the time she’d been having her wicked way with my man!

Furious, I dialled her number but it went straight to voicemail.

I was mad at Josh, but I expected him to come crawling back to me. I assumed he’d want to give our relationship another try for Jessica’s sake.

Instead, he told me he was moving out.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s for the best.”

I tried texting and calling Dannielle but I didn’t hear a peep from her. It was like our friendship had never meant anything to her.

I knew I had to be civil to Josh for Jessica’s sake and I allowed him to see her once a week. A few months after he’d left, he popped round to pick her up.  

“I’ve got something to tell you,” he said. “Dannielle’s pregnant.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I slammed the door behind him before I burst into tears.

Now, I’m trying to rebuild my life without Josh and Dannielle. Needless to say, Sam was gutted too, and we grew close as we comforted each other.

Our friendship did turn into something more for a while but we soon realised we were only ever meant to be friends.

Josh still sees Jessica, but I don’t have anything to do with Dannielle.

She’s never apologised for ripping my family apart, while pretending to be my best mate. I miss our girly chats and shopping trips, but I could never trust her again.

I thought I could share all of my secrets with Dannielle but I never planned on sharing my man.

Dannielle and Josh
Dannielle and Josh

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Josh Swales, 26, said: “I don’t feel guilty because I’d been trying to get out of the relationship for ages.”

Dannielle Smith, 24, said:  “I was never friends with Louise. My daughter’s dad was friends with Josh. Josh and I did nothing until the 15th of April last year. We have been together 13 months and, yes, we have a child together but Louise was with my daughter’s dad before Josh and I got together. I don’t want this published as there is no point in bringing up the past.”

Louise was devastated when her best mate stole her man and decided to name and shame the pair in Take a Break, Britain’s biggest selling women’s magazine. We negotiated the best price for her and allowed her to reach a large audience. If you’ve been cheated on and want to speak out, contact us on the form on the right and we’ll tell you how it works.