When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed in 1974 when I was 30, so I have lived with MS for 43 years. My first symptoms were eye problems, but nothing could be found wrong with my sight. Then at Christmas I felt numbness in my left side. A consultant visited me on New Year’s Day (those were the days) but I wasn’t given a diagnosis, although I found out later that my parents were told! It was 2-3 years later when seeing the same consultant and he assumed that I knew.
How did you deal with your diagnosis?
I was told I had relapsing remitting MS and that I should do as much as I could before things progressed. I drove home from the appointment in shock. Followed by complete denial. I was working in London and had no time for this thing trying to take control of my body. Shortly after, my GP suggested hyperbaric oxygen treatment at Exeter, where I discovered my local MS therapy centre. At last! People who could make sense of my symptoms and understood what I was going through. They encouraged me to stay as active as I could within my own limitations.
Why did you want to support the MS Trust’s work?
All my information came from MS Trust. I cannot thank them enough. Hence my recent skydive to raise funds.
What was it like taking part in a tandem skydive? Were you nervous?
I went along to support the MS Trust’s Jump in June one year and by the time I left, I had said I would take part next time. After all, walking was my problem so jumping from a plane would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, two weeks before I was due to jump, I fell and broke my right wrist having never broken anything in my life. Not even a promise as far as I know. So the jump was postponed, and was then pushed back a further three times due to poor weather conditions. Was someone trying to tell me something?
Eventually, it happened! Nerves didn’t come into it. After all, the skydiving company are professional people and I was strapped to a very handsome young man (you take what chances you can get at my age!). The experience was amazing, thrilling, fantastic, but also the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The parachute opened at 5,000 feet and the feeling is incredible. The next worry was landing but that was easy. I was in safe hands.
What was your experience of fundraising in this way like?
My immediate family have always been immensely supportive, allowing me to do the things I wanted to do without interference. Skiing, fast cars etc. I think I always terrified my poor Mum! MS has never stopped me and should not stop anyone from living life. For me, MS is incidental, but I know I am lucky compared to some.
What would you say to someone with MS who was thinking about taking on a challenge like this?
I would encourage everyone to do it. If I can, then anyone can! It really is such an amazing experience, plus I raised £1,065 for MS Trust who have always been there for me.
You have also decided to leave a gift to the MS Trust in your will – what made you decide to do this?
A legacy to MS Trust is something I can do for future MS sufferers to benefit from long after I am gone. Why would anyone with MS not want to leave something to help others like them? We all have to do our bit and look out for one another. I know jumping out of a plane is not for everyone, but including the MS Trust in your will – no matter how big or small the gift – is something that we can all do to make a difference.