When I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2015 it was a complete surprise. I remember experiencing triple vision while I was training for the Great North Run, so my boyfriend had to come out running with me as I couldn’t tell how high the kerbs were! Then I lost the feeling in my left leg and started seeing bright lights in my eyes. It was after we’d been on holiday to the Lakes, and I’d got us lost three times because I couldn’t see the road names properly, that my parents persuaded me to see a specialist.
I had an MRI scan and the consultant said ‘We’ve found something’. I replied, jokingly, ‘Oh, you’ve found a brain!’ - I’m terrible at doing humour when it’s really not appropriate. Then he said that it might be MS and it completely hit me. I only knew the worst stories, and I just thought ‘This is it’; I just couldn’t deal with the uncertainty. When eventually I got a letter saying it was MS, my family and I went online and did so much research. That’s when I came across the MS Trust’s website and it was so fantastic, with information that was clear and unbiased, it really helped put my mind at ease.
At first I didn’t tell many other people about my diagnosis, as I didn’t want to be the latest gossip. Then I decided to hold a fundraising coffee morning to raise money for MS. That same morning I went for a run. Lots of people came up to me during the fundraiser and said ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but can I ask why this charity? It seems like a random charity to fundraise for.’ I told them why and people were very kindly devastated. I said, ‘Thank you very much, I’ve just been for a 13 mile run!’. That was my way of saying MS is not going to change me.
My reason for running
I have always been a fair weather runner, and when I was diagnosed with MS, I wanted to do something for the MS Trust and something to show that I still can. I decided to try and run 1,000km in a year, and once I’d achieved that, I decided to make it 1,000 miles in a year! It’s been the best experience ever! It’s given me such a sense of accomplishment and achievement. My main aim with this challenge was to show other people diagnosed with MS you still can do the things you love. If I’d known someone like me when I was diagnosed, it would have made that period so much easier. It’s not about the distance or the time - whether you walk, run, push, whatever - it’s just the fact you’re getting out there and doing something; achieving something for yourself. Of course not everyone can run, and I’m aware that I have been very lucky with my treatment and my brilliant MS team. But you can be the same person you were before an MS diagnosis.
I kept a blog throughout my running journey, and recently discovered that it has been shortlisted for Best Blog (personal) at the 2018 Running Awards and the MS Trust has been nominated for Best Small Charity. It was just incredible, a complete shock – there was Prosecco drunk! To know people have voted and think that the blog has been a good read, means we’re getting the message out there about MS.
I wanted to raise money for the MS Trust because it’s such an important charity. It’s a small charity, so sometimes the support they give to people can get hidden, and I wanted to raise awareness of the work the charity does. My nurses at the Royal Victoria Infirmary are fantastic and I hadn’t realised that all of their training comes from the MS Trust. When I got the Making Sense of MS pack after I was diagnosed, I remember going through it, and pointing to bits of paper saying ‘That’s me!’ To get that impartial information that I could pass on to family and friends too was amazing.
My advice to someone newly diagnosed would be remember who you are and make sure MS doesn’t take that away from you. Yes there might be challenges, but with support – be that from the MS Trust, local groups, or family and friends – you can get through, over or around those challenges, and you will still be yourself and you can still do amazing things.