Pursuing purpose beyond the pain by Marcia Dixon

Marcia Spence runs Marcia M Publishing, which she started in 2014 after being diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia. Her company specialises in working alongside authors to publish their memoirs. Marcia was a Strategic Manager for Sure Start children centres around Sandwell. Her memoir, Geraldine’s Pearl, was published in 2016.

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): When did you find out you had a debilitating illness?

MARCIA SPENCE (MS): In 2014 I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological illness called Trigeminal Neuralgia, the symptoms of which are excruciating pain, which leaves me unable to, eat, speak or sleep due to the intensity of the pain.  At that time I was taking a cocktail of 27 tablets per day, the side effects of medication and the anxiety associated with this illness meant I couldn’t go out to work.  I have since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2019, which now means that my whole body is in pain all of the time, and this has affected my mobility significantly.

KTF: What inspired you to set up and run a business in spite of your ill health?

MS: I set up this publishing house as it was the only thing I could do. If I was unwell during the daytime, I could sleep and work through the night on books. I could communicate with others via social media. I was also penniless at that time, as I hadn’t earned any money for over 12 months, and I was struggling to save my home from repossession.

KTF: What does your business do, and can you describe a couple of the projects you’ve worked on?

MS: The core of my business is to provide publishing services, support and PR for new and existing authors who want to tell their story.  Our specialism is memoirs, however we have worked with fiction writers, such as Pamela R Haynes, author of Loving The Brothers, a story highlighting domestic abuse. We are currently completing two major projects: Learning and Growing Together, the memoirs of Mrs Eunice MeGhiee Belgrave MBE (aged 85), who still serves her community, and we are completing our first corporate contract with West Midlands Police to create a children’s book to demonstrate the day-to-day life of a Black police officer.

KTF: How does your faith help you to cope with your illness and run a business?

MS: The work I do now was given to me as a gift by God. It is my anchor and my divine purpose.  I know that, despite my ill health, the journey over the past three years has been amazing. We work across many cities in the UK, and have clients in Holland, Portugal and Jamaica. My faith has brought me through everything.

KTF: What does Christmas mean to you?

MS: Christmas means celebration, sanctuary and family. I have three adult children and three grandchildren, so it is important to me that my family, who are of multiple faiths, feel the love of Christ during this period. This year, we hope it will be extra special as, over the past few years, Christmas has been difficult due to my health, so my children are doing everything so I can just relax and take care of myself.

KTF: What are your business goals for 2020?

MS: 2019 has taught me to delegate further, to collaborate, and to develop partnerships.

My more specific goals are to:

1. See more Marcia M Publishing House books in major bookstores and libraries

2. Double the turnover

3. Develop stronger partnerships in the publishing industry

4. Establish a training and development programme for authors and aspiring authors

5. Support my mentees through my coaching and mentoring to establish themselves as women of influence within their industries

KTF: What message of hope do you have for those who are suffering from a debilitating/serious illness, and unsure of what to do?

MS: We can get through and find purpose for our lives despite illnesses. I am learning to enjoy and be truly thankful for the good days, and to accept the knowledge that I am gaining in the experience. I have learned that despite illness and disability, we all have a Divinely Designed Purpose, when we find that nothing can get in the way.

For more information about Marcia M Publishing, visit www.marciampublishing.com.

Shana Lewis runs Christlike Creations, a bespoke cake, cards and candle making business, that she relaunched in January 2017. Shana lives with a life threatening condition; she has two shunts inside her brain and has had five brain operations in as many years. As well as being a exceptional cake maker, Shana is a talented singer and is part of the Gospel Ability Choir.

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF):  When did you find out you had a debilitating illness?  What is it, and how does your illness affect you?

SHANA LEWIS (SL): I first fell ill in August 2006.  I didn’t officially know it was a debilitating illness until 2012. I had been living with a headache every day, which NEVER went away – not even once – and I was having seizures and collapsing a few times a week.

I have two conditions: Hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid on the brain) and Chiari Malformation (where the base the brain protrudes in the spinal canal).  As a result of these illnesses, I’ve had five brain operations and live with two shunts inside my brain, pumping fluid from it daily, and keeping me alive. I had to learn to walk, talk and use my hands again properly. 

KTF:  What inspired you to set up and run a business in spite of your ill health?

SL: My children. I wanted to be there for them, like my mum had been for me. The only downside in my childhood was we had very little money but lots of love, so with my children I wanted both for them: financial security and love. Also with my ill health, it was unlikely I was ever going to get employment, so I had to play to my strengths. I am a qualified chef of over 25 years, but I didn’t want to do that, so I chose the sweet side of being a chef.

KTF:  What does your business do, and can you describe a couple of the projects you’ve worked on?

SL: I’m a bespoke cake baker/creator, making anything from simple mini cupcakes to almost full-scale sewing machines – from CAKE! Earlier this year I was commissioned to create the birthday cake of Bishop Wayne Malcolm. I also had the pleasure of making the Appreciation Cake to mark the 30th anniversary of Marcia Dixon writing about the Christian community for The Voice newspaper. 

I’ve made cakes for Pastor Marjorie Esomowei, Angie Le Mar, Sandra Martin of Gogglebox, and this summer I was commissioned to make 200 cupcakes for a pre-Wimbledon charity event that raised money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund UK.

KTF: How does working help you to cope with your illness?

SL: I can’t even begin to express in words the absolute pleasure I get from working on my cakes, and the escapism it gives me from the pain I face on a daily basis. Creating cakes keeps me focused, determined and active – both physically and mentally. The thing about running a cake-making business is you can’t call in sick. It gives me a reason to say NO to this illnesss, to live life and to live it well. 

KTF.  How does your faith help you to cope with your illness and run a business?

SL: Without my faith there wouldn’t have been a business to run! Actually, without this illness also, there wouldn’t have been a business at all! After I became ill, I think I became born-again AGAIN, lol. A new-found determination just rose up inside of me. I know it sounds cliché, but if God had brought me to it, He was going to bring me through it. I had to do my part too, and that was to TRUST HIM, along with praying, reading my Bible and attending church, amongst the other fundamentals of our Christian life.

KTF:  What does Christmas mean to you?

SL: LIFE is what Christmas means to me. It’s a birthday, a celebration of the beginning of the life of Christ Jesus. I absolutely LOVE Christmas – more than my own birthday – and I LOVE my birthday, lol. Everything comes to life at Christmas all over the world. 

KTF: What are your business goals for 2019 and next year?

SL: I’ll be introducing new and exciting things for Christlike Creations. They will definitely come to fruition in 2020. I’m also writing my first book, and that will be ready in 2020, as I turn 50 later that year.

KTF:  What message of hope do you have for those who are suffering from a debilitating/serious illness and unsure of what to do?

SL: I have an acronym that has helped me along this journey and it is H.O.P.E – Hold On Pass Empty. When all else seems to be failing around you and you just don’t get it…still hold on. What else are you going to do? The other alternative is to end it all and give up, and who wants to do that? In Christ Jesus, your latter WILL always be greater than your past. So HOPE is the key. 

For more info about Christlike Cakes, visit https://www.facebook.com/ChristlikeCreation/

Former senior deputy head of a secondary school, Juliet Coley is now CEO of Black Jac Media, a company she founded after experiencing serious bouts of ill health.  Juliet attends the New Testament Assembly in Tooting, south London.

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF):  When did you find out you had a debilitating illness?  What is it, and how does your illness affect you?

JULIET COLEY (JC): I have heart disease, following a heart attack in 2013 and quadruple bypass surgery in 2014.  I also recently got the all clear after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018 and surgery in January earlier this year.  I experience shortness of breath if I walk for extended periods and fatigue. Emotionally I used to worry a lot, more for people around me because with the word ‘cancer’ comes the association with death. Prior to my illnesses I was very active and always on the go. Recently I decided to take early retirement so I could slow down, spend more time with family and friends, and be more active within my church. 

KTF:  What inspired you to set up and run a business in spite of your ill health?

JC: My brain needs to be active, and my intention wasn’t to set up a business but to turn a negative into something positive. My son was the first author in my publishing company, and when I saw the positive effect being an author had on him, it was a no brainer to work with other children to develop their literacy skills and confidence; produce a great product at the end of it, and sell it locally, nationally and internationally.  Seeing other people thrive was the best medicine.

KTF: What does your business do, and can you describe a couple of the projects you’ve worked on?

JC: The business works with young children, and supports them in becoming young authors. With my background in education I can work with young people and bring out their creativity, skills and natural talent. To date, we have published eight titles, with authors aged seven to 13, and have four books ready to be released before Christmas. Two of our titles have won awards: ‘Life Without My Mummy?’ and ‘Hey, Black Boy!’ by Romeo Bremmer, and our Christian colouring book, ‘My Favourite Parables’, written by 12-year-old Christian twins, Kriston and Kristoff Baker, is popular with Sunday school children.

KTF:  How does working help you to cope with your illness?

JC: It gives me a focus, and working with young people in a publishing capacity gives me such a buzz, knowing it’s developing their confidence and self esteem. I have seen every young person I have worked with commit themselves to their projects, and work hard to complete their books and, through the process, get excited about what they have produced and accomplished.

KTF:  How does your faith help you to cope with your illness and run a business?

JC: My faith is instrumental in everything I do. My reason for getting up in the morning. My purpose and reason for living. Hence my smile, my bounce, my positivity. All this is an amazing support with the work that I do.

KTF:  What does Christmas mean to you?

JC: Christmas is my favourite time of the year and, for me, means love – the love of Jesus and the love of family and friends. It’s the time of year when I reflect on life and purpose, remembering the greatest story every told that began in Bethlehem. Traditionally, my family and I avoid the hustle and bustle of London and celebrate abroad. We either only treat the children or do a Secret Santa, so no one goes overboard with spending.

KTF:  What are your business goals for 2020?

JC: It sounds crazy, but it’s just taking my time and working at a chilled pace on projects that I enjoy. I spent over 20 years making a difference in my corner of the world in Education, and now I want to spend my time working on projects where God can get the glory. My daughter, Yazmin, and I have just created a prototype for ‘The Living Word Game’, which is a Christian board game. This is our business goal, and it will be out the next year.

For more information, visit www.blackjacmedia.com.

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