Hi Will, could you tell us about your MS diagnosis?
So I was diagnosed three years ago. It was nearly three years ago last Week. September 2015. But really my first symptom I experienced in mid-March. So actually I was very lucky to have quite a short period between first symptom and diagnosis. It is, I think, in large part thanks to my mum who decided to book me an MRI privately in Paris, which was home back then. And that showed two lesions. I experienced my first symptom when I woke up one morning and had a little spot at the corner of my mouth which was completely numb and that spread to the whole left side of my face, so it's kind of trigeminal.
But that went away after two weeks and then I had subsequent flare ups, mostly with balance problems.
We finally managed to get a second MRI and a lumbar puncture in August and I had the diagnosis quite unambiguously in September.
Did you know about MS before then?
Yes, but kind of at a theoretical level. Because when you study the nervous system at high school in France, when they talk about myelin, they mention MS and that kind of stuff sticks.
How has the MS Trust helped you?
The MS Trust has helped me with information. I think that the website is great, the YouTube channel is great - and I’m not just saying that because I'm on it! And the booklets are great too. I haven’t yet used it, but I know that you do have a phone number too. I thought that was pretty cool and I might give that a bell someday. There's a lot of help to be found. You can find material, practical support, you can get emotional support, and then you can get information. I'm not usually in need of physical support - I've got a blue badge to get a free seat on the tube. But I think I'm more of a kind of left grind for the emotional support. I bottle all this stuff in, because you know I've got the stand-up comedy.
Funny is that I received, the MS Trust information package with my first issue of Open door, literally like the Friday before I was about to perform. So then it felt like "yeah this is it, this is my thing"! Like I kind of managed to maybe stay a little bit away from what it meant. But you know MS is here to stay so you might as well make it your thing.
Is there a funny side to MS, do you think?
Is there a funny side to MS? I choose to see one, because I think there's a funny side in life. I think that if I can give a piece of advice to someone who's just been diagnosed with MS, it would be to go and seek out a little bit by the American comic legend Bill Hicks. I think the footage that's on YouTube is called ‘it's just a ride’. It’s extremely inspirational because it looks at what matters in life, and because to me humour matters a lot. It's obviously a coping mechanism, but in a self-admitted way, that itself is funny.
Do you think you can raise awareness about MS through the medium of comedy?
What is great about what I attempt to do, is that I am I am NOT held to the expectations or the constraints of what I will describe as actual comedy, because I'm doing something informative about MS. But I am NOT held to the expectations and constraint of actually delivering a lecture because I'm just doing something for fun... which is like the best of both worlds!
I don't feel like I am on a particular mission to raise awareness but I figured if I can do it, why not?! I really hope that they can take it or leave it, it's like if you just want to hear the jokes, you can hear the jokes. If you want to contextualize it... I think it's like that for everything we construe as entertainment.
I'm forever... you know someone's mentioned something on a TV show and then you kind of google it. I think that I enjoy seeking information, so maybe I assume everyone does because of that. I like to think it’s a kind of starting point and something that will prompt it. And if at least one person in the audience does it, that's a win in my book. But even if none do it, I don't care!
I certainly had a picture of MS that was very much about physical disability, as I think most people have. You know… “MS you get a wheelchair”. I think that you get just as difficult a ride, probably even more when your disability is invisible or still invisible *knocks on wood*. So I do think that it helps if like the more we, I'm using this collectively here, the more we can raise awareness to say; "Hey it's not just, you know, you can't walk"... like it manifests in all sorts of funny ways, that are funny in both meanings. I think, it helps.