Inspirational Roberta Wilson’s refusal to be beaten by daily back pain and the prospect of paralysis has led to her being named a finalist in the Miss Plus Size International 2015.
The 21-year-old of Alwoodley suffers from chronic back pain after being diagnosed with a catalogue of conditions including arthritis of the spine, scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, four bulging and sciatica.
For two years in her teens she was bed-bound and taking a cocktail of painkillers every four hours which left her sick and drowsy and led to her putting on weight.
Doctors have now said her spine is too fragile for surgery and that she will need a wheelchair within eight years - but Roberta has vowed not to give in to her pain.
From once contemplating suicide as a teenager, Roberta has now turned her life around to become a plus size model and a finalist in a global beauty pageant.
Roberta, who is a size 22-24, said: “When I was younger I was really active. I was into Thai boxing and would do after school activities.
“Then when I was 12 my mum had noticed I was walking funny. I’d started having pains in the back of my legs. They said it was muscle pain as I was still growing but it got worse.”
MRI scans showed the severity of Roberta’s spinal conditions and led to her missing school for two years while she struggled with the pain.
“I gained a lot of weight and went through a lot of issues in myself. I went from being such a social kid to doing absolutely nothing.
“I was unhappy with how I looked and with life generally. I couldn’t do the things normal teenagers could do. I got to a real low point in my life, I thought about suicide.
“Eventually, on my 18th birthday I was like ‘I can’t got on like this. I’m going to try and do something for myself’.
“I came off every single painkiller. I went out and passed my driving test - a massive achievement for me, as a way of getting around more.”
Roberta drove herself to Bournemouth for a model casting and got signed by an agency.
She found out in September this year she had made the final in Miss Plus Size International competition and will find out next March if she’s won.
“It’s a big thing for me because doctors have said in a few years time I’m not going to be able to walk due to my disability. My discs are going to cut off the nerves in my leg. I’m pretty much going to be paralysed from the waist down in about eight years.
“But I just take every day as it comes. If I was to think about that day in day out I would end up in a really bad place. I’m not naive. I know one day it will happen but right now I’m going to make the most of what I can do.
“I just appreciate everything little thing for what it is.
“I’ve got to meet a lot of people through this competition who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s really overwhelming.
“I just want to say to people that no matter what disability they have, no matter what size, everyone is beautiful. “Everyone should just be positive and happy with who they are.”
Visit http://missplussizeinternational.com/ for more information.