MAKING THE MOST OF LIFE WITH MS
PAULINE BEYNON moves briskly around the kitchen of her friend’s tearoom and art gallery, preparing a perfect creme brulee for one customer.
Sizzling away in the oven is another order, a succulent piece of beef from her family”s pedigree Welsh Black beef herd.
Only four of her paintings remain on the walls with the work of other artists, those she sold during the summer season are now hanging in homes across the land. Pauline knows she will have to work hard to replenish her diminished stock.
There are just not enough hours in the day for this woman. Such is Pauline’s dynamism and positive outlook that it is easy to overlook the fact that she has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair.
“There is life after diagnosis, there really is,” she says. “It felt like the end of my life when my condition was diagnosed because I was mourning a part of my life that would never be the same again. It was a form of loss so I had to reinvent myself.”
Pauline and her husband, John, were leading a busy life, running their 97ha (240 acre) beef, sheep and arable farm at Penlan, St David’s, and bringing up their young daughter, Sarah, when her illness was diagnosed 17 years ago.
It was Pauline’s mother who guessed before she did the cause of the extreme fatigue and other symptoms. “I wasn’t feeling ill but neither was I feeling well. I kept dropping things and tripping over,” Pauline recalls.
Until that point, Pauline had played a full role exhibiting their Ty Ddewi herd in shows across Britain, their efforts rewarded in the year when they won three championships at the Royal Show.
“It got to a point where I couldn’t help with the cattle any more. Fortunately, Sarah started taking an interest which meant John had someone to work alongside him. It meant that stepping back from it all wasn”t such a big thing for me,” says Pauline.
These days she confines her show days to one or two a year. Access is difficult and the day can be tiring but also it is the busiest time at the gallery.
Pauline was a founder member of the Welsh Black Beef Marketing Company, producers who saw the value of marketing their beef as a branded product. “We made people realise that our beef is a supreme product,” she says.
The beef is served at the coffee shop. “People seek us out for that very reason. Nine times out of 10 it is beef from our herd because we buy from the local butcher who stocks our beef.”
Art has helped her enormously to cope with her illness. She has been passionate about painting all her life, watching her mother paint and studying art at college. When her close friend, Angela Samuel, bought a property in the charming Pembrokeshire village of Trevine, Pauline seized the opportunity to help her with the business.
It had been her long-held ambition to run a gallery and was a natural outlet for her own work. Pauline works in mixed media and takes inspiration from the rugged coastal landscape that surrounds her. Accessing locations she wants to paint can be difficult but as with everything she has found a solution.
Angela knows the sort of things I like. We have a very good digital camera which means she is able to bring the information back to me. It’s a matter of using the tools that are available to me,” Pauline explains.
It was Pauline’s choice to use a wheelchair. Her movement was limited and she reasoned that she could do more if she had a wheelchair as a tool. This meant she has sacrificed the use of her legs quicker than she might otherwise have done but she is not in the least negative.
“If I needed to walk from A to B, I would be shattered, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I have chosen to use this because as a person it helps me to be more fulfilled.”
Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable. Some sufferers have total remission after a number of years, while others go downhill very rapidly. Today is a good day for Pauline but there are many periods when she lacks any energy.
However she is philosophical about her own situation. “If it wasn’t this, it could be something else. I could spend all my life worrying but I’m not prepared for that.
“I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have found such a rewarding occupation which allows me to work around the limitations that MS dictates.”