An MP has spoken for the first time about her battle with a condition that causes pain so excruciating it can leave her feeling “paralysed” for days.
Conservative Andrea Jenkyns revealed her experiences with glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN), which is similar to trigeminal neuralgia, a condition which has been called “the suicide disease, because they say it’s one of the worst pains known to men”.
Ms Jenkyns also has fibromyalgia, a long term-condition that causes pain all over the body and has meant she “hasn’t had a day free of pain in 15 years”.
The Morley and Outwood MP’s reaction to both conditions is to “just get on with things”, but she is speaking out to raise awareness and encourage research.
Her attacks of GPN, which cause pain in the nerves around the ear and throat, are less frequent than the constant fibromyalgia, but far more debilitating.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “When I get an attack I get this pain from my ear going through to my vocal cords and literally I’m stranded and I can’t move.
“It’s like these big explosions in your ear, you just feel paralysed because the pain is so bad, and the slightest movement makes it even worse, even trying to walk (is difficult).
“The vocal cords, it feels like your throat has been slit and it’s incredibly sore.”
It once caused her to “fluff her lines” in her first ever Prime Minister’s Question in June 2015.
But despite her stumbling over her words during a question on immigration, she was cheered to the rafters by Tory backbenchers, while then-Prime Minister David Cameron said her victory over Labour big beast Ed Balls at the previous month’s General Election was one he been “dreaming of”.
Nevertheless, Ms Jenkyns found it an awkward moment, revealing the attack came on simply after having her ear brushed by a hairdresser that morning.
“Literally it had just subsided about ten minutes before I had my PMQ,” she said.
“It leaves you a bit light-headed really and so I really fluffed my lines, because it takes a while for you to adjust and so I was very embarrassed about that, actually.
“But it’s just one of those things, you’ve got to just get on with things.”
Ms Jenkyns said she does not get a lot of attacks, around one every three months, but when she does the pain has lasted from five minutes to three days at its worst.
“That does make it hard to manage my day, actually,” she said.
But she insisted her fibromyalgia, which is more constant, does not affect her work as an MP, despite the fact that she does not take medication because “it’s too strong and makes me more groggy”.
“Obviously in this role you’ve got to be very switched on mentally so it’s not something you can take really,” she said.
“What I’ve done the last few years is not take any medication, tried to use the power of the mind just to get through each day.
“But literally when I get in on a night I collapse into bed and I’m in pain and then I go through that thing of maybe having three or four hours sleep and that’s it.
“I just live with it, there’s far worse conditions – my sister’s got MS, she’s going blind and she’s a real trooper,” she said.
“I’m a firm believer that if you have a strong mind you can overcome anything.
“I just try and ignore it, but in the last 15 years I can’t remember a day without pain.”
She admits it has become harder to manage since she had a baby last year, nicknamed “Brexit Clifford” as he was born the day Article 50 was triggered to begin Britain’s two-year exit from the EU.
The committed Brexiteer went on: “I need to listen to my body more at times and try and pace myself – when you have fibromyalgia you are meant to do that, but I think I’ve got that personality, I don’t pace myself, I just go full steam ahead.”
Ms Jenkyns went on: “I’m better at looking after other people than myself.
“I just want to plough on with being a good mum and the best I possibly can as an MP.”