Feeling a little odd
I was an active, happy-go-lucky kind of girl with two years of my nursing degree completed and dedicated to my TA Medic career alongside. But then in 2008 I started feeling a little odd. I approached my GP numerous times to report numb feet, double vision, vertigo, random unexplained limb pain and eventually increasingly debilitating muscle spasms down the entire right side of my body. Understandably he had no idea what to do other than to refer me on to a podiatrist, eye specialist etc. resulting in an answer of ‘well there’s nothing physically wrong with your feet and eyes’. But things were soon to become clearer.
I was reaching the point where I couldn’t manage and went back to the GP who was off sick, so I saw a locum who through sheer luck had witnessed very similar symptoms previously. The locum referred me urgently to a neurologist and booked me in for an MRI scan after suggesting something was going on in my brain that needed investigation. Fortunately for me, I was scanned within two weeks and with my mum holding my hand I walked in to the consultant's office to hear the news that would change my life.
Diagnosis and a sense of relief
"I can confirm your diagnosis today for you Miss Baker. With 17 lesions on your brain and 6 on your spine as confirmed on your MRI, I am very sorry to tell you, you have relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis". My mum just stared at me, as did he, as I smiled and let out a huge sigh of relief... it’s not a brain tumour! I’m not going to die! Now I know many people take the news in a very different light but I was so convinced my life was due to end soon that anything else was better. And I still feel like that today.
A lot has changed
I ended my nursing studies as I was simply too unwell to manage. Before my treatment I couldn’t feed myself, drive, shower alone, write, read a book - all things we take for granted. I had to leave the TA which was the biggest blow. But at 23 years old I was still full of life and ambition, and knew my future would still hold many exciting things.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough. I've had numerous relapses with similar, progressive and new symptoms including deafness, fatigue, numbness in both hands, difficulties with speech and swallowing, muscle tremors and neuralgia. At times it’s been difficult to bring myself out of a sudden spiral of negativity and potential depression. I have been in and out of hospital more times than I can remember, I know staff by their first names. I have spent years injecting myself with medications to slow down the progression of the disease and it’s symptoms, with no guarantees they will work, but with a whole host of unpleasant side effects almost worse than the MS itself.
Happier and stronger
However, out of a potentially life destroying diagnosis and situation I have found myself happier and stronger than I ever was. I met my husband just as I got diagnosed and despite my offers to get out while he had the chance he has stood by me despite many challenges. He’s made me laugh as I sit with my steroid drip in my arm whilst twitching and slurring, he’s supported me through all my decisions and made me smile throughout, even when we’ve both wanted to cry. We have brought two amazing, beautiful little girls into the world. Despite two years of no medication to have them and three relapses, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
At 23 I was pitied and people said I wouldn’t have kids, but now look at me! I run my own business and am still building my portfolio of holistic and complementary therapies - something I love and truly believe has helped me through my symptoms. I have other family members with MS and we have been involved in fundraising and building awareness to help others be happier and more positive with their diagnoses.
MS is debilitating, stressful, depressing and soul-destroying at times.
MS is just one part of me, the rest of me loves life and embraces how MS has brought me to where I am now.