Liz Norton is nothing if not a fighter. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of six weeks old, her parents were warned not to expect her to live beyond her teens.
It was heartbreaking news for Liz’s devoted mum and dad, who had thought long and hard about having a second child, already having a nine-year old son with the same condition. There was a 25% chance their new baby would also have CF – and the odds proved not in their favour.
Yet feisty Liz, now 34, has defied all the odds. A self-confessed bookworm – partly fuelled by weeks spent in hospital – she excelled at school and graduated from University not only with an honours degree, but a Masters and, most recently, a PhD.
She completed her ‘bucket list’ of things to do before reaching the age of 30 and has now written an inspirational book to help others overcome their fears to achieve their potential and ambitions. ‘Step Back, Move Forward’ is a fascinating mix of Liz’s own life-story and valuable advice gleaned from the lessons she has learned on her fairly rocky road through life.
Not only did she have to endure a debilitating drop in lung function and chronic stomach pain – a common side-effect of CF – but she also had to watch her beloved brother die at the age of just 21 from their shared condition. A year later, her heartbroken father suffered a breakdown, leading to his early retirement and, she believes, early onset dementia, which ultimately led to his death in 2014.
It would be easy to think, looking at her CV, that life has been a bed of roses for Liz, a seemingly-confident, chatty and bubbly public speaker. But appearances can be deceptive, as Liz is the first to admit. And, as she battles on tackling her illness with a time-consuming daily routine of vapour inhalation, medication, physiotherapy and exercise, she remains optimistic that the longer she fights, the closer medicine will come to finding a solution which will help the next generation.
Her brother declined the offer of a lung transplant, which would have given him a few extra years of life, knowing he might not survive the operation. Having witnessed the grief that caused her parents, Liz has already vowed she would make a different choice, should that day ever arrive. Not that it will, of course. One gets the impression the sky’s the limit for this formidable young woman who truly believes there is no such word as “can’t”.
Step Back Move Forward is not – nor was it designed to be – a sorry tale of Liz’s problems. Instead, it takes a humorous, yet serious, look at how everyone can change their lives by looking at it from a different perspective.
She said: “I’m not special – and that’s the point. I’m an ordinary person who’s had some extraordinary experiences and who has learned to deal with them. The fact that people come to me for both personal and professional help is an absolute delight to me.”
Written in Liz’s own inimitable style, the book doesn’t set out to lecture, but to give plenty of food for thought – and sets targets that all of us can achieve.
What other self-help book says it’s OK to have a duvet day (or even two)? Liz advocates that it’s fine to feel down in the dumps now and then – just not to let it drag on!
“Putting yourself first is not selfish and limiting your activities is not a weakness. We live in a society where ‘having it all’ is the ultimate goal and people who don’t go all out in every aspect of their lives are branded lazy or unambitious,” she said. “I believe that the meaning of life, if there is one, is simply to be happy.”
Liz admits she doesn’t always succeed in being happy and said: “I am not a motivational writer and speaker because I am happy all the time; I am a motivational writer and speaker precisely because I am NOT happy all the time, but when the worst does happen, I tackle it head on.”
In Step Back, Move Forward, she writes: “I am not a psychologist (not that kind of doctor!). What I am is a fighter. Not a victim, not a survivor, but a fighter. I fight my challenges every day and I get knocked back by them on a regular basis, but I keep fighting and I have developed tools to help me do so. “My reason for writing this book was not to tell my own story (although I admit it is a singularly cathartic experience), but rather to help those who read it to understand how I have kept fighting all these years and how, if they choose to, they can do likewise.”
Liz doesn’t promise a panacea – instead, she provides a set of tools, inspiration and motivation to help people overcome their challenges and make things happen. She explains how simple tricks like ‘pathworking’ – a kind of meditation and self-hypnosis – can be used alongside mindfulness to help attain a calm and forward thinking state. Not that she always practises what she preaches!
“I rely on what I like to refer to as negative mantras. That means, instead of trying to access my positivity in times of crisis I tap into something that, for me is far more powerful; my obstinacy. My strength lies in being unendingly stubborn!”
Liz is living proof that being stubborn does get results – eventually. She said: “Ultimately, what you have to realise is you cannot simply sit back and wait for things to get better. If you expect the Universe to fix things for you, you are bound to be disappointed. Even when a situation is seemingly out of your control, such as illness or financial crisis, you can still take steps to make things better.
“You need to take a stand and fight back against adversity and, if platitudes and niceties aren’t working, try getting stubborn, fighting back and saying to your challenges – “Don’t. You. Dare.”
She concluded: “It takes hard work and commitment to improve your life, but by taking responsibility for your own betterment you are one step closer to overcoming your challenges.”
Step Back, Move Forward is available in paperback on Amazon, priced £12.97, or Kindle edition priced £9.99. For more information on Liz Norton, visit www.liznortonpresents.com