Nicole Ewart has had migraines for as long as she can remember but she was not diagnosed until the age of 16.
The Dromore-born pupil had to take a lot of time off school for nausea and fatigue, not to mention the visual disturbances, blind spots in her eyes and excruciating headaches.
The pain would range from mild to completely debilitating.
She said: “Because I was feeling sick with the pain, it was making me feel really awful. I really struggled balancing academics and my illness.”
After a very long process of different scans, medication and therapy, Nicole was eventually diagnosed with chronic migraines.
She was given different treatments to try and reduce the number of severe days.
Now 22, Nicole explained: “For years I was unable to do anything because of chronic migraines but since being diagnosed and as a result of having treatment, I feel I can live life to the full again.
“I want to prove that health conditions shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you set your mind to.”
Nicole has been crowned the winner of two national pageants
(Image: Nicole Ewart)
Despite her condition, Nicole has just graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a degree in English and Sociology, and has already been accepted on her next course to become a teacher.
During her time at university, she has also been crowned the winner of multiple national pageants, including the Face of Northern Ireland, and Future of Empowering Women (FOEW) Northern Ireland Senior Queen..
She is currently waiting to represent Northern Ireland at the international finals of FOEW International Pageants in Disneyland Paris next year.
Nicole has raised thousands of pounds for charity through her work
(Image: Nicole Ewart)
Nicole said: “Since being crowned as FOEW Northern Ireland, I have used my title to advocate for awareness of invisible illnesses, as I myself am a disabled student.”
She has built on disability services at the university by forming a society to create a more accessible social scene for “overlooked students” with disabilities, chronic illnesses and those who are neuro-diverse – something which had not been done before.
Throughout her time as the reigning Queen, she has raised over £3,000 for The Children’s Heartbeat Trust, the NHS and Headway, while helping a lot more local charities and businesses with fundraising.
While the 22-year-old may already have achieved so much, her illness still poses its challenges. Nicole has to have 31 botox injections every three months to numb her pain.
She said: “It’s a last resort treatment after you have tried the medication and physiotherapy without any success.
But despite the pain Nicole is determined to continue to help others.
‘Grasp every opportunity’
She said: “I want to prove that despite my disability, nothing has stopped me from achieving my dreams.
“I have won my dream title of FOEW Northern Ireland Queen and have continued to make a real difference in my community for charities and other disabled individuals.
“I have grasped every opportunity I have been given and haven’t let my disability define me.
“I want to be an advocate to prove you shouldn’t let anything stop you in the way of your dreams.
“I was so debilitated for such a long time, so I know what it’s like to have something impact your life so much.
“You shouldn’t let any kind of condition or disability hold you back from anything you want to do in life. Grasp every opportunity.
“I have been in the position where I thought things would never get better, but they do and I would tell people to keep trying to get help and to keep pushing themselves.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel.”