At the age of 10, Karen Beckett underwent the first of the 27 operations she has had to endure since then.
The mum-of-two now 47, was born with the rare and incurable disease Charie-Marie-Tooth (CMT), an inherited neurological condition which causes muscle weakness and a loss of touch sensation in legs, hands and joints.
Surgeons would break and reset her bones and joints to help straighten her feet, which were turned inwards and made it difficult for her to walk.
And despite being in constant pain and struggling to do simple tasks – like tying shoe laces or walking up stairs – she said she wants to encourage people who are suffering in silence with the rare disease to come forward.
Miss Beckett, of Blakely Grove, Flanshaw, said: “It was hard for me growing up, I was bullied a lot at school and just trying to fit in with everyone was difficult because the people didn’t understand the condition.
“I want to make people aware and prove that CMT can still live a fairly normal life.”
The disease can cause frequent falls, continuous pain, extreme tiredness and balance problems.
But Miss Beckett passed her driving test in 1996, had two children and has worked as an information assistant for the NHS for 27 years.
She added: “I always thought ‘there are people in the world worse off than me’ so I just got on with it, I never let it stop me.”
Miss Beckett has been working with charity CMT UK, which conducts research and provides support for people living with the disease.
The charity hopes to reach out to those who may be unaware they have the illness and are suffering in silence.
Karen Butcher, from CMT UK, said: “Many people can often think they are clumsy or just believe they have unusual feet, ultimately suffering for years in silence.
“We want to raise awareness about the symptoms and the support available to people with CMT.”
For more information, visit www.cmt.org.uk