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Facing tough challenges: Julian's story

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Julian and friends after the 100km cycle

Julian was only 20 when he first experienced symptoms that turned out to be multiple sclerosis.

Five years on, and with a 100km cycle under his belt, he shares his story and tells us why it's so important to him to remain active and challenge himself.

Back in 2010 I was an outgoing, active 20 year old guy who never let anything stop him and would face the toughest of challenges with a sense of confidence that most world leaders would love to have. That all changed on a camping trip when I noticed I wasn’t feeling quite as strong as normal and everything just felt a little bit… odd. It all came to a head when I dropped a red hot pan of frying bacon onto my leg because I physically could not hold on to it as I had lost all movement in my right arm. Beyond the disappointment of losing perfectly good bacon it was collectively decided that I needed to go to hospital to get myself checked out for the burns I ended up with, but also to see what the deal was with my arm.

Getting a diagnosis

The most concerning part of the entire hospital visit was the confusion on the doctors' faces as they could not get to grips with why someone who had been fine just a few days beforehand and who, from the outside, looked perfectly healthy, could not wiggle a single finger on one hand but had perfect movement on the other. They booked me in for an MRI scan, and then another, and another, plus various other tests including a lumbar puncture that crippled me for a solid week, to eventually come up with the diagnosis of “Well, you MAY have multiple sclerosis”.

This was a disappointing outcome since I don’t deal well with uncertainty. They advised to keep a track of everything, do exercise etc. and I did this until the whole process repeated itself at the tail end of 2014 when the doctor finally gave a definitive conclusion: “You have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis”.

Reaction and the 100km cycle

Dealing with a conclusive diagnosis was tough to say the very least. Every emotion rolled into the space of a few moments. Relief to finally know. Depression to know that this wasn’t going away as such. Fear because of the uncertainty of when it will affect me most. But I’ve vowed to stay strong and my partner has always stated that she forgets I have MS because I cope with it so well. I’ve had to make adjustments to my life and I can’t do things the same way that I used to do them before, but I can still do them and that’s the important part to me.

An opportunity came up at the beginning of this year to take part in a 100km cycle with my colleagues from work and I jumped at the chance to finally do my bit to raise awareness for MS Trust and multiple sclerosis as a whole, and to prove to myself that I can cope with the toughest of challenges that face me. We completed the whole cycle in 7 hours 11 minutes (including mandatory pit stops) and I have never been so relieved to finish anything in my life, but the sense of pride was amazing. My team mates were the most supportive people I’ve ever known and without them it would have been impossible. We’ve even got more challenges in the works for 2016!

Final thoughts

The past 5 years have taught me so much. We take our bodies for granted and it’s a cliché but we all need to learn to treasure what we’ve been given. I’ve gone through the entire time on no medication at all (apart from the occasional steroid drip to calm my symptoms) and my target is to push through as much as possible without needing it.

Having MS can be depressing, it can be a real pain in the backside and it can be really difficult knowing life is never entirely normal, however the moments you get when you’re feeling good are made even better because you know it’s more difficult to have those moments. I’m so much more than just someone with MS. MS is a really small part of my life in the grand scheme of things, it’s made me learn to love life more though. Let’s see what the future holds!

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