When Emma was diagnosed with MS aged 27, she admits it was a 'devastating' time. But, 10 years later, she is determined to focus on the positives. In this blog, Emma writes about her MS diagnosis, life as a farmer, and why she won't let MS beat her.
I always thought I was fairly indestructible. Growing up on a busy dairy farm with two brothers, meant that you had to be. This was until I awoke one morning with a numb hand. I was 27 and working in London at the time. I just thought that I had slept on it funny.
Three weeks later, I was admitted to hospital after my left hand side had completely shut down. I underwent a comprehensive set of tests and scans, MRIs and a lumbar puncture. My diagnosis was conclusive. Three tell tale scars on my brain and MS cells in my spine. I couldn't believe it. My family and I knew very little about the disease but the more research I did, the more devastated I became.
I was lucky to make a full recovery from my initial episode, but I had a hard time accepting it. I was walking better and feeling had long since returned to the left hand side of my body. To everybody else, I looked normal. I couldn't get my head around it. It was a lot to take in. My doctor at the hospital talked me through a drugs trial they were running. My own doctor was against it, but luckily I met all the criteria and so started with my daily dose of Copaxone shortly afterwards.
I effortlessly went back to making myself busy at work and burying my head in the sand. I literally ran away from my diagnosis - running two London Marathons, to prove to everybody else there was nothing wrong with me. I hadn't realised it at the time, I only had myself to prove it to.
Nobody knows what the future holds for them, whether you have MS or not. I just have to remind myself how lucky I am - I have an amazing family and I'm doing a job I love
Ten years (and a family) later, I moved home to take a more active role in the family farm. I wanted my daughters to have a similar upbringing to my husband and I, who also grew up on a farm. We enjoy a lot of outside play and I feel it is vitally important that all children know where their food comes from. They are always keen to help me with the animals, particularly our growing flock of free range hens.
I love being a farmer. My working day is varied - from helping to bring new life into the world, to milking the cows, to mucking out, on farm audits, helping with the accounts or applying for cattle passports. We milk the cows twice a day and the morning shift starts at 4.15am. I won't lie to you, farming is tough at the best of times, but it also can be very rewarding.
MS doesn't stop me, it just makes me do things a little differently. I have warning signs that indicate I need to slow down. I stumble sometimes, my mind can be a little hazy and I occasionally drop things. I have even fallen down a flight of stairs at Leicester Square tube station - luckily two unsuspecting fellow commuters helped to break my fall!
I still struggle talking about it and my diagnosis has always been on a 'need to know' basis, even after 15 years. Everyone has their own problems, they don't need to know about mine. Copaxone is still working for me but a couple of years ago I moved to the 40ml dose, which means I only have to inject myself three times a week now. This has helped me a lot.
For me, a positive mental attitude is crucial - I am stubbornly determined not to let MS beat me. I can't fix what has already happened but I am working hard to stop it from getting worse. Working outside helps me to keep fit and active, and means I'm able to enjoy regular doses of Vitamin D. When I was first diagnosed, I hated not knowing how my MS was going to develop in the future. But you can't let it get you down. Nobody knows what the future holds for them, whether you have MS or not. I just have to remind myself how lucky I am - I have an amazing family and I'm doing a job I love.
Just been diagnosed?
You probably feel emotional and have a lot of questions. What happens next all depends on how active your MS is, what treatments are available and what you would like to happen.
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