What year and age were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed early in 2006 at the age of 18, but my initial attack occurred was when I was 15.
What were some of the symptoms?
I was diagnosed after several months of chronic dizziness, vertigo and balance issues. Prior to that I had experienced several vision issues and numbness in my hand and leg – incidents which didn’t seem connected as they each occurred at different times and got better after a few weeks.
What was your reaction when you were diagnosed, and do you remember what the neurologist told you?
The neurologist pointed out fuzzy white blobs of ‘cotton wool’ on my MRI brain scans and told me that they showed I had MS. I did my best to stay rational and not catastrophise, but despite his assurances I couldn’t help thinking of wheelchairs and nursing homes when I’d barely started uni.
It was a frightening and isolating time while I learnt to understand my body again – but, with the incredible people I’ve had around me, the future I thought I’d lost on that day has become a reality and is so much more fulfilling, interesting and amazing that I could have imagined.
Has MS stopped you doing things that you used to?
MS hasn’t stopped me from doing things – it’s just meant that I have to adjust the way that I do some things. I also need to be very careful with my energy levels so sometimes I just have to postpone things. I have discovered new activities I love like yoga and jogging, have worked my way back to playing squash, and I’m physically fitter now than I was pre-MS! I finished uni in 2011 and I’ve worked full time since then, and along the way I’ve discovered the importance of work-life balance and managing my own expectations so that I’m fair to myself.
I’m not climbing Mt Everest, but I’m living a meaningful and fulfilling life every single day, and for me that is every part the same kind of victory. Plus I hate cold weather!
Why do you choose to get involved in the Swimathons?
I always have such a fabulous time at the Swimathon catching up with friends and meeting new people, both inside and outside the local MS community. And it’s a wonderful way to help raise awareness of what MS is, the varying and significant ways it affects different people, and how the funds raised will help people with MS.
What would you say to people thinking about getting involved in the Swimathon?
DO IT!! I can’t think of a more rewarding experience – you get to be in a cool pool on a warm day, meet and hang out with awesome people, and raise funds for a fabulous cause! And there’s no requirement to swim for 12 hours – even if you walk 1 lap of the pool and raise $1 you’ve made a massive contribution to people’s lives just by being involved.
Has MS Queensland helped you during your MS journey?
So, so much.
What has that support meant to you?
It’s hard to quantify where I’d be without MS Queensland because my life would be SO different. The incredible staff have been involved in so many aspects of my life; helping me to access health and education programs, providing medication training, assisting me on my NDIS journey, and assisting with establishment of our local young people’s support group. I’d certainly feel a lot less control around my condition, wouldn’t have made so many great friends in the local MS community, and wouldn’t have developed such a strong health support team around me.
What else do you want to share about your MS journey?
More than anything, I want young people diagnosed with MS to know that this disease is not the end of their stories. Life may be challenging at times, but it is still every part as amazing, and dreams are still very much achievable – just sometimes in a slightly different way.