Exercise by the Aga...how I'm trying to beat MS
Open Door - February 2005 page 10
Over the Christmas period, the telephones at the MS Trust were constantly ringing after an interview by Charlotte Dovey with Edith Rifkind, patron of the MS Trust, appeared in the Daily Mail. It is abridged here with their permission. Photo courtesy of the Evening Standard
The first signs of MS came ten years ago. I was taking far longer than I should getting dressed or showering. I lagged behind on walks with my husband [politician Sir Malcolm Rifkind] and children. Worse still, I started to be quite clumsy. I'd get on a bike and wobble all over the place, mysteriously fall off chairs while trying to reach for things and felt really quite tired all the time. A few months later I started to trip over my left foot.
Eventually I was referred to a neurologist and, after everything had been collated and considered, I was told I had primary progressive MS. The diagnosis was no real surprise to me; everything seemed to slot into place. All that oddness I'd been experiencing had been due to that. That didn't make it any easier to take. I was simply furious. But the anger didn't make it go away.
In the immediate aftermath I set about doing everything I could to slow the progression of my MS. As well as sticking to a diet and taking a variety of supplements, I started doing yoga every day for about 15 minutes, religiously. But then as the months passed, I stopped. Part of my nature is that I'm very easily discouraged and as I started to find things a little more difficult or tiring, I gave up.
Eventually I found myself having difficulties climbing up stairs. Worse still was when I had my driving assessed and was no longer able to drive a normal car.
So I had to accept the disability and deal with it. I got myself an adapted car and the problem was solved. And when I was no longer able to take our dog for the long walks he adores, I purchased an electric buggy.
But the difference in my mobility from just two years ago provided the impetus for me to get exercising again and with the help of books such as Exercises for people with MS and the interactive Be inspired, stay active CD-ROM, I've set myself realistic targets.
Of course, exercise can be energetic stuff like sailing or tennis. On the other hand it can be something as simple as sitting up straight while on the loo or touching your toes when you're sitting in a chair. The latter works much better for me.
I stand next to the Aga two or three times a day, hold on to the bar and bend my knees several times. In bed, before I go to sleep, I lie on both my good and bad side, and lift the opposite leg up as much as I can. If I'm feeling very energetic, I may even do sit ups.
It doesn't always go to plan - recently I lay on the bed to do my exercises and ended up falling asleep for an hour and a half.
Perhaps I've gone back to the exercise five years too late - but even now it's making a difference, especially to my overall well-being. I think I'm more positive. I also feel in control of the condition and the way I feel about it.
Of course, I don't always feel 100% positive. In fact, some days I feel more frustrated than ever. But my family has been there for me every step of the way, from listening to my concerns, to encouraging me to get out and about and not let MS get the better of me. I'm grateful for this.
- Be inspired, stay active is now made available as web pages
- Exercises for people with MS is now also made available as web pages
- Read about or order the Move it for MS exercise DVD