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Councillor raises awareness of Fibromyalgia and ME

Councillor raises awareness of Fibromyalgia and ME

December 15, 2017

One of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Elected Members, Alderman William Leathem, suffers from the medical condition Fibromyalgia. He is of the view that specialist medical care is needed for people with this condition, based on his own experiences and work with support groups.

He was delighted to be guest speaker at the December meeting of the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group, where he was very warmly received.

William Leathem is a well-known, long-serving and respected Elected Member on the Council. He is a former Mayor and has held a number of key roles from his election in 2005 to local government.  He has spoken out about Fibromyalgia and ME support services through the Council and through his involvement with the group Hope for ME and Fibro Northern Ireland.

William is also an ME sufferer and he secured unanimous support from the Council when he tabled a Notice of Motion in the Chamber earlier in the year; calling for a Specialist Consultant for Fibromyalgia and ME for the 7,000 ME sufferers and 17,000 Fibromyalgia sufferers in Northern Ireland.

At the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group meeting, he talked with group members and outlined how he has coped living with this debilitating condition. He praised his wife, Kathleen, whom he described as his rock, for her encouragement, support, help and patience because, as he told the group, the condition has affected his life in many ways and family support has been crucial for him.

His diagnosis from some 17 years ago was described. He said: “Quite simply I felt like normal life had been taken away from me and it was like I hit a brick wall.  I could not get out of bed and my symptoms included terrible muscle pain, tiredness, dizziness, weakness, cold hands and feet, all the time, feeling sick constantly and a total lack of any sleep pattern.

“I also experienced headaches, light sensitivity and worryingly memory loss, which was very frightening for me”, he added. “It was some five years before my condition was diagnosed and during this time I was in and out of hospital and spent periods confined to the house.”

He has welcomed the support that is available but is determinedly of the view that specialist medical provision is needed. He has paid for various treatments over the years, including deep tissue massage, kinesiology, hydro-baths and reflexology and availed of health treatments that are available through the Health Service like attending the Pain Clinic, which he says was not for him.

Today William’s pain relief dosage is one-third of what it was three years ago, which he is of course very pleased about, but it has been a long struggle to get to this point. He has praised the excellent GP care he has received but believes specialist support is urgently required for this highly complex illness. This is a message he will continue to push out.

He said: “Another aspect is how you actually feel on an emotional level.  I know from speaking with other sufferers that this is common of the condition.  It is easy to get depressed and anxious when your Fibromyalgia is really bad and you are living with awful pain, no sleep, sickness and the many other symptoms of Fibromyalgia.”

“But self-determination and keeping on putting one foot in front of the other is important.  This and my family has helped me in my darkest days. I am very busy in my constituency and play a full role on the Council, which I really enjoy. I represent the electorate and I take this responsibility very seriously. I was Mayor back in 2012, although I know I should have slowed down at that time, as when the term was over I was completely shattered and had to take several weeks off.  I was raising money for my then Mayoral Charity, Stepping Stones, and was busy with engagements virtually every night of the week.  I have learned that sometimes you have to step back a little and listen to what your body is telling you. 

“I am extremely grateful for the support I have received from my fellow Elected Members and from Council Officers and I would like to say a huge thank you to all. I would also like to thank the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group for inviting me to speak at its meeting. I met so many people that identified with me, and me with them.”

“As 2018 approaches I will continue to lobby for specialist services for Fibromyalgia and will continue to provide updates on this work,” he concluded.


Siobhan Bailie and Sandra McConnell along with members of the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group met with Alderman William Leathem, who is raising awareness of Fibromyalgia and ME.

Pictured with Alderman William Leathem are Siobhan Bailie and Sandra McConnell, group organisers of the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group.


Alderman William Leathem was the guest speaker at the December meeting of the Lisburn Fibromyalgia Support Group.