After even the shortest of conversations, the determination of Sylvia Herring is clear for all to see.
In December 2017, the Selco Portsmouth deputy manager was diagnosed with Systemic Sclerosis (or Sclerdoderma as it is also known) with secondary Raynaud’s, a non-curable condition which affects just 10,000 people in the UK.
In short, the condition means the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, having devastating effects on joints, muscles, blood pressure and the digestive system and causing additional symptoms including fatigue, muscle wasting, joint pain and acid reflux.
For almost all suffering with the condition, the estimated life span upon being diagnosed is 10 to 20 years.
Receiving that devastating news would have led to an understandable period of despair for many, but it only increased Sylvia’s desire to live life to the full.
So much so that, in July this year, she will embark on the Race to the Stones in Oxfordshire and remarkably run 100km – or 62 miles – in the space of two days.
It would be a gruelling challenge for even the fittest, but one that Sylvia is adamant she will complete as she aims to raise £10,000 for Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK.
“I will not fail, even if I have to crawl some of the way,” said Sylvia, aged 44 and the wife of Southampton’s branch deputy manager John Herring.
“Given my condition, I know it’s probably the last major charity challenge I will be able to do so I wanted to make it a big one.
“There are 10 other people who have agreed to do it with me, including branch colleagues Charlotte Elston and Keith Goodbody, and I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.”
Sylvia, who joined Selco in August 2014, knows she will need to battle through the pain barrier on multiple occasions to achieve her mission and complete the event.
She added: “I was diagnosed just over 12 months ago and already had a place in the 2018 London Marathon at that point.
“I decided to go ahead and run it and I completed the course in seven hours but the pain was incredible.
“The training got harder and harder the more I stepped the miles up and the more the condition took hold. After the day of the race, it took me nine weeks to fully recover.
“My husband saw the pain I was in after finishing it and didn’t want me to do the Race to the Stones at first. But he knows how much it means to me to do this and is fully supportive now.”
Not surprisingly, the diagnosis has had a major impact on Sylvia’s life. Not a day goes by without her taking 14 tablets while a host of foods – including diary and gluten products – are off limits.
And an extreme hyper-sensitivity to cold caused by the Raynaud’s means that Sylvia has to wear up to seven layers of clothing due to winter and as many as three in the summer.
Sylvia continues: “There are moments when it gets tough but I try and lead as normal a life as possible.
“I know that may change as the years go on and the condition gets worse but there is no point worrying about that.
“There isn’t much publicity for the condition and any money raised to help find a cure is done through private donations and that’s why I’m doing the Race to the Stones.
“There are 10,000 sufferers in the UK and my aim is to raise £10,000 which is a £1 for each person.
“All donations are hugely appreciated and will be the reason why I won’t fail the challenge come July.”