WHEN you think of beauty pageants most people conjure up images of tall, tanned women in glittering gowns with perfectly coiffed hair.
But one inspirational Coventry woman, whose multiple life-limiting conditions leave her reliant on feeding tubes and a wheelchair, is hoping to break the mould when she takes to the stage as a finalist in the Mrs Coventry Galaxy UK 2017 competition for married women.
Tracey Anson from Whoberley suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which causes her to suffer from hyper-mobility in her joints; Dysphagia; Gastroparapesis; Asthma; a rare blood condition and seizures.
She has even beaten kidney cancer thanks to her assistance dog who detected it at such an early stage.
Now the 40-year-old mother-of-two she is hoping the judges will look past her disabilities and crown her Mrs Coventry Galaxy – putting her one step closer to representing the UK in the Galaxy International Pageant in Florida next year.
“I’ve always been told I am too short, that I am too ample and that I do not have the looks, but I thought this needs to change,” Tracey told the Observer.
“I had been applying for pageants exclusively for people with disabilities, but turned around one day and thought able bodied people and disabled bodied people can work together and work as one.”
Encouraged to apply for the Mrs Coventry Galaxy competition by husband Nick, who she met while a student at Whitley Abbey Comprehensive School (now Whitley Academy), and daughters – 21-year-old Hannah and 20-year-old Elizabeth – Tracey said she was ‘completely shocked’ when she received the letter naming her as a finalist.
Now she and five other women from across the UK who suffer from life-limiting conditions – including women who are fed through feeding tubes through their noses and others with heart problems – will compete against women from all walks of life in their local heats.
She hopes her time in the spotlight will help raise awareness of people, like herself, who suffer with chronic hidden illnesses.
Tracey said: “I want to inspire those people who are sat at home, lacking the confidence to leave their front door, that with the right help and with the right positive mindset you really can achieve your dreams and do all you hoped to do.
“Sometimes I don’t need my wheelchair and other times I do, which means you get some people saying I don’t ‘look sick’, but in reality they don’t know the half of it.”
Tracey has always struggled with her numerous conditions, but things took a turn for the worst last year when her assistance dog, Hogan, began acting strange around her.
The flat coated retriever crossbreed helps Tracey complete day-to-day activities as well as letting her know when she is about to suffer from a seizure.
But when Hogan started lying across her stomach, she knew something was wrong – a visit to her GP revealing she was suffering from a rare from of kidney cancer.
“Without Hogan, I wouldn’t be here today,” Tracey said.
“My tumour was just one centimetre away from requiring chemotherapy, but thanks to him the doctors caught it in time and were instead able to remove it.
“I owe Hogan a huge debt, and I’ll be honouring him when I get up there on the stage.”
Tracey is now appealing to kind-hearted Coventrians to donate any money they can to help her raise £400 in sponsorship money after more than 20 local and national companies turned down the opportunity to be her corporate sponsor.
Visit www.gofundme.com/MrsGalaxy to donate to Tracey’s cause or www.facebook.com/MrsCoventryGalaxy for updates on her journey to the pageant stage.