Green Prescription Success Story: Theresa


My name is Theresa. I am 38 years old and pregnant with our first child. Recently a friend asked me if I could carry her little baby a short distance. I was able to do, this however I struggled with arm weakness and pain and I worried that I would not be able to carry my own child when it was born.

I have had an illness called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). I developed glandular fever in my teenage years and found my energy levels were never the same. In my twenties I was fit and then one day I found I could not go up the ninety stairs I was used to going up every day.

I developed intolerance to physical activity resulting in migraines and muscle pain when I exercised. It seemed that I could do a lot and then I would crash with tiredness. Later I was diagnosed with CFS. Some of the symptoms of this condition are muscle spasms and numbness, irritable bowel syndrome, unrefreshing sleep, flu-like symptoms and much more. People with CFS have to pace themselves so they don’t relapse. For some people the condition can be extreme and they become bedridden. Others, like me, are able to function with a full time job.

I was issued a Green Prescription (GRx) when I became pregnant and decided to give it a go. With CFS you can exercise and feel great at the time, however 48 hours later you may develop flu-like symptoms, feel weak and suffer tender lymph nodes. It is a much stigmatised and misunderstood illness.

I started going to the pool on advice from the Sport Whanganui GRx support staff. This was a big deal for me for a few reasons. I was very body conscious about my physical appearance, however I had found swim wear that covered my bits. I wear swim shorts and a rash top. I have since found out a lot of woman feel nervous about being in togs.

I started by swimming 14 lengths of the 25 metre pool backstroke, stopping at each end of the pool. I waited a few days after this and didn’t relapse. I was delighted and slowly built the distance up over weeks, then months.  20, 25, 31 35 then 41 lengths of the pool. I was going three times a week at this stage and not stopping as much after each length of the pool.

Trimester two was the best for my physical activity. Then I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GM) although I had not felt so good in years. I was surprised to have developed GM and learnt how to manage this with excellent support from Whanganui District Health. One day, in my third trimester, I did 75 lengths of the pool which was a bit much for me so now I stick to 41 lengths at a time.  Nearing the birth I go to the pool once a week. The GRx team kept in contact with me along the months to see how things were progressing.

The results

I discovered that swimming stopped my arm pain. I have better posture and more confidence.  I never thought I would become a swimmer. I feel the trick is to go at your own pace, take your time and focus on technique. I was faster than I thought I would be.

For me, pregnancy has been a wonderful experience, yes, there has been nausea and other weird and wonderful things happening with my body, but wow, I do feel well. Many people have said I look fit and well.

The plan: I aim to take an hour to swim a few times a week in the evenings once my body recovers from birth. Now I’m not concerned about being able to carry my own baby and look forward to introducing her to swimming.

May 2017

Photo of Theresa and baby Ferne

At the moment I am able to swim for one kilometre once a week. I do this in the weekend when my hubby, Tom, can look after Ferne. If I could, I would go more but we have no other family to look after Ferne here. I really missed swimming when Tom had his hip replacement. At the moment he is out hunting most weekends so I hang out for him to come home so I can swim.

I just had an x-ray and have osteoarthritis in one knee but I find swimming stops the pain.

I hope to swim three times a week in the future once Ferne is not feeding as often. The evenings are a busy time in our house hence no swimming.

Tom knows that it is a win-win situation with me swimming as it keeps me happy and healthy and it is great for Ferne and him to have that time together.

GRx has been even more rewarding than I dreamt!

This story was provided by Sport Whanganui.

For a Green Prescription referral or more information ask your health professional or visit Green Prescriptions.

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