Photo of Jacqueline

Multiple long-term conditions

"This has brought my amazing life back again."

Jacqueline, 54, Denmark Hill

'From one to many' report

Before I was ill, I was dressing, I was going out, I was looking nice and those things. And when you get ill, the first thing, you go down and you forget about yourself. You just think about looking after the family, and you put them first and you in the back. But now, I am in front first.

I was born in Guyana and then I was brought to London by my adoptive parents. I had diabetes as a child. In those days, it wasn’t so well-known.

A few years ago I had a stroke.

My main conditions now are diabetes, Parkinson’s, myeloma, blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the stroke.

Before I got ill, I had diabetes, and it was okay to manage. But when I got ill, my mom – with her heart – it wasn’t so bad. It’s when she took the operation for her knee, then I had to do full-time caring for her.

And then, after that, my dad started losing his memory, where when you send him out, he would go out and wouldn’t come back, and you have to go and look for him. Sometimes, for days you don’t see him. And, when he started to get really ill, that’s when I had to focus more on him than myself. Because, I got diabetes, I got the Parkinson’s, I got the myeloma and all the other rest of things to go with it

My speech was so bad and my reading was so bad but singing helped me be able to do things.

I found out about the Tea Break Theatre and the Dragon Cafe through my GP.

Coming to Tea Break Theatre has saved my life. I would advise any patient that has problems like I have, come here and you will see the changes.

You won’t see it in one day or two days, you have to keep coming.

Angela, Tea Break Theatre Leader

Tea Break Theatre is more of a drop-in group. You can come if you like. You can not come for a couple of weeks. It’s playful. It’s laughter and it’s getting to know people. The session would start with a cup of tea, and a chat in the office area. Then we come over into one of the spaces and play fun games. A little bit of improvisation.

The group is mixed, physical ability, varied ages. Just about anybody can come in. It can lead onto going up to the next level. It’s basically to come and have fun, meet people and go on with a smile on your face.

Since Jacqueline first came, she is a changed person. It’s been a gradual change. She came in with a stick, unsteady on her feet. Didn’t talk a lot. Smiled a lot, she’s carried on with the smiling. But she didn’t have that courage to speak up for herself and over the weeks or months, the voice came.

She’s joined a lot of other groups now, she’s always busy. She is now using the underground and again, she’ll leave here, she’ll go off to somewhere else. Whereas before, I think she would tell you herself, she stayed in a lot, she didn’t come out, she didn’t do a lot around the house. She is an important member of the group. She’s missed when she is not here, which is very rare, she’s here most weeks.

Jacqueline at the Dragon Cafe
Jacqueline at the Dragon Cafe
Jacqueline singing in the choir
Jacqueline singing in the choir

Five years ago I never stopped lying in bed. I did take to my bed for a good time. I realised I have to get back out on my feet. I did do physio, I did do swimming, I did do going to the doctors very often.

Life wasn’t like this then. Because of being so ill, always losing balance, not able to walk properly. I couldn’t turn without canes.

I asked myself the question every day, “Would I have been able to help myself if I didn’t join one of these things here, the Tea Break and Dragon Café choir?”

When I went first to the doctor, they tell me, “It’s not a stroke. It’s a weakness.” Then eventually, I kept going and going. One doctor said to me, he said, “You had a stroke.”

Then, when I was with the Parkinson’s, going and shaking so badly, I said, “What it is that making me shake so?” I was looking for a cure – “Well, I must get something to stop this shaking.” I didn’t understand that Parkinson’s, it’s like diabetes. It doesn’t have a cure. It’s only you that can control it.

The other thing, I’m always in pain. I got chronic pains. I was going to the pain clinic thinking that I would finally find a cure for it. No, they don’t have a cure for pain. I said, “Well, what do I do?” She said, “You just have to learn to manage it and use things to manage it.”

I said, “Well, I’ll do a bit of physio to help myself, help to move my arms and things a bit better.” Because the stroke, it took me a long many, many years to able to use my left side better. Since I came here and went to the Dragon Cafe, the Tai Chi, the reflexologist, the massage I took, the dancing, the singing, the artwork relaxes you and try to make the brain remembering things and all of that. It helps.

When I come to the Dragon Café, it makes me feel amazing, lovely, I go home happy. I know people need me here, I know people want to see me.

Me and my treatment

In my early stage with all my illnesses, I was taking a lot of medication. Since I came to Tea Break and go to so many different activities, what I take has come right down. If I used to take 20 [tablets] in the day, now I don’t take that. I take 10 now. I take those in the morning. In the evening, I only take like one or two; the Parkinson’s and the pain tablet. I still continue using my patches for my pain.

I still use my inhalers for my breathing in the morning and in the evening. I still get pains with my legs, the swelling because there’s not enough circulation going around there. I still feel pains in the arms. I do these things, but I still feel ill.

Nothing taken away, it’s just that you improve. You’re able to help yourself more. Every day you look at yourself, “I said that I’m going to stand and do this.” You pat yourself many times on your back.

The doctors are fantastic. I sing now "We're finding our way, we're walking together." That's our song. Not everything goes right in the NHS. We must give thanks to the NHS. If we don't have the NHS we can never get by.

I met a lady this morning and we were standing at the bus stop. She said to me, “I’m going to Tai Chi.” I said, “Well, I do Tai Chi”. She said, “You know what? I feel that nothing is working.” I said, “Don’t worry. Keep going.”

“When I first went to Tai Chi, they have the rules, where you need to stand on the carpet. I never stand there.” I said, “I used to stand at the side because I’m afraid I fall.” I said, “But now, I stand on the carpet.” I said, “That’s how you know you improve.” She said, “Is it?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Next time you see me, you tell me that.”

She said, “It’s true. Before I come,” she said, “I was so wobbly.” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Don’t worry, it takes time to get to where I am. I see you forget where I used to pull the two legs walking.” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, you keep going,”

Dragon Cafe

'From one to many' report

Over 15 million people in the UK live with one long-term health condition and around three million have three or more. It is a complex and growing phenomenon which has a significant impact on people, their carers and communities.

By focusing on the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions in our report, rather than a set of individual conditions, we wanted to understand more about how we might be able to intervene early to prevent progression from one to many long-term conditions.

Read the report