Carole Hatch’s active and busy lifestyle changed dramatically when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
But the former park ranger and retired college lecturer is determined to help others as well as achieve her own life ambitions.
The 68-year-old has found solace through writing novels and volunteering for St Catherine’s Hospice at its charity shop in Leyland.
She explains: “Some days I’m so tired or feel so off balance that I can’t stand up. But I will never let it define who I am and what I can do. I want to make the best of the good days when I feel okay, and do what I can to improve my quality of life and help others. It gives you a reason to get out of the house and it’s very sociable and fun.
“I wanted to keep busy once I retired, and although I can’t do anything physical, I enjoy sitting in the store room and sorting through the bags of donations and pricing the items with other volunteers.
“I’ve made some lovely friends and we have a laugh. I was drawn to St Catherine’s because of the nature of the hospice’s work. I might require that help myself at some stage, so it seems fitting to do what I can to help support the charity now while I can.
“It’s very humbling actually because you meet some customers who have experienced the care of St Catherine’s, and it brings it back home about why you’re giving your time and the difference the charity makes.”
Carole, who lives in one of the Farmyard Cottages within Worden Park, Leyland, used to work as the park ranger and dog warden, before becoming a lecturer in animal care at Myerscough College.
She retired in 1999 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) – a condition which affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause fatigue, and problems with vision, mobility, and thinking.
Despite such setbacks, Carole is now a celebrated author after her novel, No Son Of Mine, was recently printed by Michael Terrance Publishing, and is gaining five star reviews from readers.
The book follows the story of Bran O’Donnell, who moves from Ireland to Liverpool with his father and brothers following a tragic event, and who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.
“I’ve always loved writing,” Carole, who uses the pen name JJ Carlin, says. “I started this book years ago as a hobby, after I retired and had more time on my hands. I carry a notebook round with me everywhere I go and jot down ideas and thoughts.
“It has been a challenge because MS can make you forgetful, and it’s sometimes difficult to put your thoughts into words. But it’s given me a discipline, to sit down and write most days, and I find it very therapeutic.
“I’m currently working on the sequel to No Son Of Mine now, as well as a children’s book about fairies in Worden Park. I’m doing the illustrations for that one myself; I love painting and drawing.
“I’m blown away by all of the wonderful compliments I’m receiving, which has really given me the incentive and the inspiration to push on with the second book of the O’Donnell brothers trilogy.”
Carole is also a big lover of dogs and has two Papillons – Loki and Erik – who she has presented at prestigious dog shows including Crufts in 2017. They have been handled by friends for the last few years because Carole is no longer able to walk round the rings.
She adds: “I have a lot of gay friends from the world of showing dogs. It seems so accepted to me, and yet there’s still so much in the media about hate crimes and homophobic behaviour. I think I wanted to explore those relationships in the book, and I’m really pleased that so many of my friends say that I’ve managed to capture those feelings and emotions through Bran’s story.”
No Son Of Mine is available from Amazon – visit www.smile.amazon.co.uk and select St Catherines Hospice (Lancashire) Limited to enable Amazon to make a donation to St Catherine’s when you make a purchase.
Hospice Care Week runs from October 7 to 13.
To volunteer with St Catherine’s – at the hospice, in the charity’s shops, or The Mill café – visit www.stcatherines.co.uk or call 01172 629171.