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The ups and downs of being a teenager with MS

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Gemma Berryman was diagnosed with MS when she was just 16 years old. Six years on, she has decided not to let her condition stop her following her dreams and she hopes to inspire other young people with MS by sharing her story here.

This June I will be taking part in the MS Trust’s Jump in June parachuting month where I will be leaping out of a plane at 10,000 feet. I am hoping to help support the work that the MS Trust does and I aim to inspire other people with MS like myself. I would also like to raise awareness of the disease especially for young people who may be living through the same experiences as me.

I was 16 when I developed my first symptoms of MS. I experienced blindness in my right eye and numbness throughout my body. After numerous tests and MRI scans the doctors confirmed I had MS. I had no idea what it was and apart from lack of vision and numbness, I felt completely fine in myself. I researched MS and it was pretty hard to accept knowing how quickly it could progress. After a number of visits to the outpatients clinic I realised that I was probably the only patient under the age of 30 waiting, which made it even harder to come to terms with being a teenager with MS.

June will mark the 6th year since being diagnosed and I really want mine to be a positive story to hopefully inspire others. Taking part in a skydive is not only a personal challenge for me, but also my way of showing that MS does not need to control your life, and a way to give back and thank the MS Trust for the support they provide. I hope it’s the first of many fundraising events I will have the pleasure of taking part in. I have definitely learned to deal with and accept all the ups and downs that MS has, the unpredictable progression of the disease and how easily health is taken for granted. And I hope that my story will also allow other young people with MS to realise they are not alone and they can achieve anything they want.

Being so young when I was diagnosed made me feel as if my life was put on hold and I had to grow up fast. A short while back, there was a point when the condition just became too much for me to handle. My health suddenly changed and my limitations became ever more apparent – not being able to walk as far, a constant battle with fatigue, unrelenting head pains and numbness throughout my body – I felt so helpless and fed up. But the turning point came after reading other people’s stories about how they have battled on, trying to overcome the tough times brought about by MS. The inspiration I gained from reading about these individuals has provided me with the motivation and drive to stand up and accept my disability.

I believe that all MS patients are truly inspirational and every single one of us should be proud of everything we have achieved. I’ve wanted to do something more than just read and praise other peoples stories, so when I came across the MS Trust’s Jump in June event I saw an opportunity. Not only to do something daring to make myself and others proud, but also to raise funds for the MS Trust to give something back after all the help and support I’ve been given over the last 6 years. This is something I’ve always thought about doing anyway, and although my condition can be a barrier to some things, there is nothing stopping me from taking part in this skydiving event.

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