Life has presented some serious challenges to business and life coach Frances Barrone.

In her twenties, she was almost paralysed by a violent assault, then years later she was stabbed in a potentially fatal random attack on the streets of Swindon. She has also endured miscarriages and suffered an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed her. None of these events, however, has diminished her appetite for life and her sense of adventure. In fact, she says the opposite is true, and now she wants to help other people gain confidence and create a life that is happy and fulfilled.

Frances, 55, from Wroughton, was born in London, the daughter of Irish parents. The family moved back to Ireland when she was nine.

“There I was, a Cockney speaker in Dublin,” Frances remembers. She was educated in Dublin and won a scholarship to Manchester Metropolitan University when she was 18, to study clothing, design and technology.

“I wanted to go into higher education, and I saw it was advertised. I was interested in clothing and fashion, but it was my route into higher education more than anything. I was looking for opportunities,” she said. “The management side was what interested me most, and the development of people. The personal development of people was always a part of my psyche, even as a child.”

Frances said she enjoyed her time in Manchester, but was happy to return to Dublin after graduation, where she became a work study engineer – observing people in the workplace in order to understand jobs and improve performance. After two or three years, she set up her own fashion business with a friend, opening a clothing retail outlet. The venture was short-lived, and it was around this time Frances was the victim of a serious assault.

“It was thought I would be paralysed and unable to walk,” she said. Frances had a steel plate fitted in her spine and it took six months to recover. A year later she married her first husband and the couple went to live on the Isle of Man. She qualified as a lecturer and taught management to hospitality students.

“He was a teacher and looking for promotion,” she said. “Cities were off my agenda at that point. The job came up and I loved the sea. We lived there for seven years. I did love it, but seven years were enough.”

The couple moved to Swindon in 1996, when Frances was eight months pregnant. She had suffered an ectopic pregnancy previously, which nearly cost her life, but thankfully this time all went smoothly. Frances worked for Nationwide for five years, in pastoral care, coaching and mentoring.

“An opportunity arose for training as a lecturer in basic skills. I went on a course at Oxford Brookes, and taught basic skills at New College,” she said. “I did some coaching and personal development, which was always my passion. I was helping people achieve their aspirations and believe in themselves and helped build their confidence.”

Then in 2000, out of the blue, Frances was the victim of a random attack by someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

“He tried to kill me with a knife. I was stabbed a number of times and suffered major trauma. I was nearly killed,” she said. “My four-year-old daughter saw the aftermath of the attack.”

It took Frances a long time to recover. Ten years later, she wrote about her experience in an essay for a book called Forensic Mental Health Nursing: Ethics, Debates and Dilemmas. She says, however, that the shock of the experience, which was an entirely random incident, has not altered her outlook on the world.

“I think the world’s a great place. Yes, there are risks, but I hope this does not hold me back from being adventurous and confident. If anything, I make sure to live life and enjoy it.

“So being scared to talk to somebody or change jobs – on the scale of things, it is not that scary. That’s not to belittle people’s personal experience of feeling scared of those things – they are all important – but it illustrates a scale of discomfort and what we can overcome. It informs where I choose my path.”

Frances began working at Swindon College with people suffering mental health issues, which was a response to her own experience of the attack.

“For me it offered insight into why I had been a victim of crime. I didn’t want to go around being afraid of people,” she said.

She married her second husband, Graham Barrone, in 2004 and the family moved to the west of Ireland in October of the same year. The couple wanted to have a child, but Frances went through a couple of miscarriages and lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks. She says it was a very difficult time.

They lived in County Mayo for five years, in a rural home in eleven and a half acres of land.

“It was a beautiful place,” she recalled. “It was quite remote and the area was very economically depressed, with not a lot of work around. We had to reinvent ourselves.”

The following year, Frances became pregnant again and had to spend the pregnancy off work.

“I had to learn to be patient, and to manage myself to be mindful of what I was doing,” she said.

Her patience paid off and Frances’s second child was born healthy and well.

The family returned to Swindon in 2009, and Frances planned to set up a coaching practice. In Ireland, she had trained in psychotherapy, CBT and hypnotherapy. She believes the many challenges she has faced increase her ability to understand the difficulties confronting her clients.

“After being through all those experiences, I do understand the pressures of life, the stresses and strains,” she said.

Frances worked for Swindon Borough Council as a locality facilitator for eight years. Among the projects she was involved with were a Peace Day, the Save the Children Swindon network and the local events for International Women’s Day. Then when the post ended last year, she decided it was time to make her coaching practice her priority.

She now has a Business and Life Coaching Diploma, and just recently, added an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) module to her list of qualifications.

“I offer help to all sorts of people: perhaps they are being made redundant, or approaching retirement, or who are feeling stuck at work and don’t know what to do next. People who have all these skills and talents and do not know what to do next. It could be someone who’s had a career break, or been a carer and is now looking ahead for themselves, but may feel they do not have the skills or confidence to take that step."

For more information, visit Frances’s website, or call her on 07731 693082.