Every year in May I commemorate my “MS’versary” – the day that I was diagnosed; a day that changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
From negative to positive
Receiving an multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis is hard. I was scared, worried about the future. However, I didn’t want to feel like that forever. More importantly, I didn’t want others to feel like that. So I set about turning my MS into something positive. I started to “carpe diem” more. I stopped putting things off. I made a bucket list. Some of the things on the list were “small,” like going to watch a ballet or taking up a new fitness class, others were bigger and required more planning, like trying out snowboarding. I’ve ticked off lots of things, added new things, kept doing some things, decided some things weren’t for me…. and I’ve had lots of fun along the way.
Something else I wanted to do was help others affected by MS. I got involved in charity work. I’d highly recommend it. It’s not only helped me to cope with my diagnosis but has also enabled me to prepare for the future. People often tell me they’re too scared to see others with MS because they don’t want to think about possibly being in a wheelchair or needing care. Through my charity work I’ve met people who are severely disabled by their MS. However, it doesn’t stop them from doing amazing (and sometimes crazy!) things. Someone I know has been in a wheelchair for 30 years but has been bungee jumping. Someone else, who has previously been paralysed and blinded by her MS, is now a Paralympic swimmer. Someone else has made a huge impact on parliamentary campaigning and MS services. They inspire me. I know that life doesn’t have to end if my MS gets worse. So I’d say embrace “experience sharing.” Yes, it can be scary, but it can also be enlightening, amazing and fulfilling.
My charity work has given me some amazing opportunities. Things that I can look back on and “tell the grandkids.” I’ve danced in front of millions of TV viewers on Strictly Come Dancing, I’ve spoken at 10 Downing Street alongside Samantha Cameron (the wife of former Prime Minister David Cameron), I’ve been to Parliament a number of times for MS-related campaigns, I’ve overcome my shyness and spoken at numerous events (one was in front of around 400 people!), and I’ve completed a 20k charity walk in under 3 hours – no mean feat for someone who battles with MS fatigue.
What would I tell someone who’s living with MS? Every journey is unique. Don’t compare yourself to others. Take your time. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with things. Your journey will change over time. Accept help if you need it, there’s no shame in doing so and it can be liberating. Choose the path that suits you and you never know where it might lead!
Set your own goals including our hashtag #MSHeroes, and view our challenge leaders’ and MS Heroes winner stories for inspiration.
If you’re feeling inspired, challenge your MS perceptions with a Truth, or step outside your comfort zone by selecting a Dare with our game of Truth or Dare.