NICOLA Nicholls has spent her entire adult life in a wheelchair after being brutally assaulted as a toddler which left her with crippling rheumatoid arthritis.

She was just two-and-a-half years old when she wandered out of the back garden into a nearby playing field and was beaten by an older boy and left unconscious with life-changing injuries.

By the age of 10 she was wheelchair-bound but determined to live as normal a life as possible. She got a full-time job and by the age of 23 had married husband Andy. The couple have a 12-year-old son, Harrison.

However the worsening rheumatoid arthritis made it impossible for Nicola to exercise and she gained weight. When her friend Emma Kennedy launched Slimming World classes in Runcorn, Nicola, 38, decided this was the opportunity she needed to get back into shape and increase her life expectancy.

Nicola signed up in January weighing 12 stone 4 lbs, now eight months later, she weighs 7 stone 4lbs.

She said: “I didn’t know how it would work with me being a full-time wheelchair user and unable to walk, let alone exercise or even get weighed at class. However, my consultant Emma at The Heath told me that they could enter my weight manually if I could get weighed elsewhere. Everyone’s story for being there is different but we all shared the same journey. It has been my year, a year to find the old Nic, not just mum, or wife or the Nic in work.

“I want to see my boy grow up and be happy, I want to see him hopefully one day fall in love and be everything he wants to be in life. I want to grow old with my husband and live life to its fullest and, if I’m honest, had I have not taken this journey that might not have happened.”

“I rolled (pun intended) in to my first class weighing 12 stone 4lbs. I’m ashamed to admit that number but I know I’ll never see it again. 37 weeks later I got my 5st award and my target award – and I still feel shocked if I’m honest. Shocked that I did it. Shocked that I stuck at it. Shocked that I actually enjoyed it!”

Nicola says Slimming World classes kept her motivated and provided the support network to achieve her goal.

She added: “I want people to know that even if you struggle to exercise or you can’t walk at all, Slimming World still works! If you can’t get weighed in class due to mobility issues just speak to your consultant and they’ll work with you. If you have friends or family with those concerns then please send them my way and I’ll happily speak to them and try to help. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s been easy because it hasn’t. But it’s been so worth it – and I’ve made some lifelong friends along the way.”

Nicola, who works as an investigations officer for the Ombudsman Services, says winning her battle with the scales has totally transformed her life.

She said: “I do hope my story inspires and encourages other disabled people.”