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Meet the mum who overcame an eating disorder, depression and an 'invisible' illness to win a top modelling prize as Face of the UK

By Lisa Smyth

Published 01/09/2015

Anouska Black
Anouska Black
Anouska with her partner Chris at the Calvin Harris gig in Belfast

She battled an eating disorder, depression and a crippling medical condition, and raised her seven-year-old son single-handedly.

But Anouska Black overcame the challenges life threw at her to forge a career as a model.

The 26-year-old recently triumphed in a UK-wide competition and is now set to go to Paris to take on the rest of the world.

The mum-of-one from Magheralin outside Moira, Co Down, was diagnosed with endometriosis when she was 20. It was a devastating blow for someone so young.

"I don't know if I will ever be able to have any more children because endometriosis affects your fertility," she said.

"Luckily, I fell pregnant when I was 17 and I had Bailey. He' s been reason to keep going. At the same time it's been really difficult when getting into a relationship because I have to explain that I may never be able to have children."

Anouska developed an eating disorder in her teens. It was so extreme that, at one stage, she was surviving on water and just a couple of apples a day.

She also deliberately ate food that was not properly prepared to make herself sick.

But Anouska fought back and was hoping to use her experiences to become a psychologist.

"I had an offer from Queen's, Manchester and Liverpool, but I found out I was pregnant when I was doing my A-levels, so I had to rethink things," she said.

Anouska found being a single mum tough, but she was determined to give Bailey the best upbringing possible.

Then she began to suffer agonising and continual heavy bleeding. "I was in so much pain that I went to A&E, but they told me I had a kidney infection and I was sent home," she explained.

"I went back two days later and was told I had cystitis and was sent home again. I collapsed in work a few days later. This time, they scanned me and found a 6cm mass on my left ovary. It was devastating. I had to go in for surgery and then wait six weeks to find out whether it was cancer. It was the longest six weeks of my life."

While it turned out that the mass was benign, doctors finally discovered the cause of Anouska's pain - she had endometriosis, a condition where the cells lining the womb move and break down, causing bleeding, but there is nowhere for the blood to escape.

"I've had four surgeries, and each time there is more scar tissue," said Anouska. "It has affected my bowel and bladder. I don't know what they will have to remove before the surgery. I could wake up and find out I have had a hysterectomy.

"I have told them that unless something is going to kill me, I want them to leave it because I can't be in any more pain than I am already in. I am prescribed morphine to keep the pain under control, but there are days I can't cope.

"I've also had to go through a medical menopause for a year, which was really difficult. Bailey has grown up knowing that there are just some days mummy can't get up.

"Endometriosis is an invisible illness. If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong, but inside my body my organs are knitting and sticking together. I had a great night (when I went to see) Calvin Harris, but I've been paying for it ever since.

"Endometriosis is an autoimmune condition, and I'm prone to infections. In fact, I was getting recurrent tonsillitis, so I had my tonsils removed. I would have problems with asthma as well."

In spite of everything, Anouska was recently named Face of UK Photographic 2015 and is now looking forward to completing for the Face of Europe and the World.

"It's so exciting," she said. "I got into modelling by accident and it hasn't been easy. My tummy isn't pretty because of all my surgeries. I'm not 6ft and a size six, and my weight goes up and down because of my condition, but I'm doing OK. I was so happy when I won the competition that I burst into tears.

"I try not to let my endometriosis stop me. I'm hoping I can use this platform to raise awareness and help other women with the condition."

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