Suffolk: Teen died in her sleep after battling eating disorders for three years
WITH striking good looks, a big group of friends and a sparkling future in front of her, 19-year-old Bethaney Wallace appeared to have the world at her feet.
While to others she seemed to be a happy, confident young woman, Beth was haunted by eating disorders that saw her weight plunge to six and a half stone and eventually contributed to her death.
Weakened by almost three years of anorexia and bulimia, Beth’s heart stopped beating as she slept earlier this year.
Yesterday her mother and father, Cathy, 42, and Clive, 47, said they hoped by speaking out about their daughter’s struggles with eating disorders, other parents would be more aware of the nightmare conditions.
Cathy, of Acre Road, Carlton, Newmarket, explains: “It was terrible. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, to watch that happen, her life being sucked out of her, and be so helpless. It was frightening.
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“You are slowly watching your child die.”
Clive said Beth had been a “normal, happy child” and had asked them to allow her to model when she was 12.
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She soon became a permanent fixture on the front of glossy magazines such as Girl Talk, Popgirl and Make It Groovy.
But at 16, after leaving modelling to concentrate on college, Beth contracted glandular fever.
The draining condition left her tired and took away her appetite.
Clive said he believes the illness may have been the trigger for Beth’s problems with food.
“It definitely made it harder for us to spot. We would have noticed that she had lost weight, but we just put it down to the glandular fever.”
But alarm-bells went off when Beth woke on the sofa one day and immediately grabbed at her stomach.
“It was like she was checking her weight, but in a really panicked way.”
Friends said that Beth, who gained four A*s, four As and a B in her GCSEs, and an A*, two Bs and a C at A-level, would only ever pick at bread when they went out to eat.
Cathy said after they realised their youngest daughter was ill, it took almost a year to persuade her to seek help.
“She wouldn’t talk to me about it. I would say, ‘Beth I know what’s going on’.
“I would write letters to her explaining that I knew what was happening, saying “Come and talk to me and we will get all the help we need, I’ll come to counselling with you if that will help.’
“Then one night she came down stairs and she was crying. She just said ‘I know I need help, but I will do it when I’m ready’.”
Her weight fell from a healthy 8st 7lbs to six and a half stone, leaving her constantly weak and tired.
Cathy, who even resorted to sleeping on the floor by her daughter’s bed to prevent her from making herself sick, said even Beth’s hands bore the tell-tale marks of eating disorder - calloused from regularly making herself vomit.
Cathy said: “It was so hard to get help.
“I went to the doctor’s a few times on my own.
“I asked them to call her in for something else and then bring up the eating disorder. But Beth was not a child so I could not force her to get help.”
The couple, who have a 22-year-old daughter, Shari, said the teenager’s death on April 18 while staying at her grandmother’s house nearby, was made even more tragic by the fact that Beth had finally started confronting her condition late last year.
Clive said: “She was making progress with her illness with counselling.
“She had been given an eating plan by West Suffolk Eating Disorder Service to help her and was having about one hour counselling a week.”
He added: “She wasn’t one of these girls who was obsessed with thin models.
“She had her feet firmly on the ground and her real dream was to have her own photography business. Also she did want to go back to modelling but only as a sideline to her photography or any other career she would have chosen.”
Cathy said: “When I spoke to her last, the night before she died, she seemed really happy. She was talking about all the things she wanted to do.
“In the morning I had a phone call to say she was not breathing. I knew the eating disorder had taken her.”
The parents said more help should be available to those whose family members are struggling with eating disorders.
“I think because she did modelling people straight away think that is why she got this Illness. It’s an illness anybody can get,” Clive said.
He added: “This has been a terrible time for me and Cathy but if some good can come from Bethaney’s death , to make people more aware, then it will be of great comfort to us.”