Hey I’m Chloe!

I’m twenty- two years old and I have PKU. I currently live with my parents and brother in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. I lived in Lincoln for three years whilst studying for my English degree at the University of Lincoln, but in September 2018 I graduated with a 2:1 and moved back home. I like to think that moving away to university and gaining my degree are two of my greatest achievements so far. There was one time of day when I didn’t believe I would ever be able to cope with the pressures of moving away to a brand new city, let alone become completely independent with my PKU diet or be successful with my degree. Yet I did all three of those things and came out the other side a more confident and happier person.

I have always been very good at sticking to my PKU diet, I think this is partly due to the dedication of my family though. My Mum and Nanna were always strict with my diet when I was a young child, because it was all new and they understood little of the condition. However, this has ultimately meant that I’ve maintained a good health track record (so far!). There have certainly been plenty of times when I felt frustrated or disappointed that I wasn’t like everyone else – at birthday parties, during school dinner times, or at Christmas celebrations – but my family have always made an extra effort to ensure that I didn’t feel too excluded. My Mum and Nanna loved to bake me low- protein foods and my Aunty even made me my own Christmas advent calendar which I filled with protein- free sweets. I am just so grateful for all of their efforts because it has not only made my diet more manageable, but actually reassures me that having PKU isn’t always that bad.

After university, I secured a job at Costa Coffee (which is where I still currently work). This was another big challenge for me – walking into a team of people I had never met before, who I would no doubt have to explain my PKU to eventually. I also had quite a tough time adjusting to work life as I was fresh out of university, I found the job itself to be daunting and I was often in tears both before and after my shifts.  However, fast forward to the present day and just over a year later, I no longer feel like a terrified graduate and have managed to overcome my fears. I have gained so much confidence in my job and I am now even training up new members of staff. My manager is very understanding of my PKU and is more than happy to let me take the time off I need for my hospital check- ups or allows me some time if I need to take my supplement whilst on shift. Although my diet doesn’t directly affect my ability to do my job, these were always the little worries at the back of my mind when I first started work. It’s a relief to know that I no longer have anything to worry about in this respect.

Then in June last year I took a month out of work to take a solo trip to Cornwall, something I had dreamed of doing for years. It is one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far and an achievement I am definitely proud of. I wondered for a long time how exactly I would manage my PKU so far from home (quite a bit further than uni was) and how I would transport all of the essential bits on a seven hour train journey. But after speaking to my dietitian we arranged for my supplements to be delivered to Cornwall, so that they were waiting for me upon my arrival. If that experience has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t let my PKU prevent me from doing anything!