I’m Jenny Wilson-Best and have been a professional opera singer for over 30 years. I have MS. I knew I had it for a long time but was pretty symptom free so just got on with life. A few years ago the symptoms kicked in and I now live with chronic fatigue and pain and see life from a wheelchair most of the time.
I was lucky enough to sing all over the world with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, Les Arts Florissants based in France, La Monnaie based in Belguim, Palais Garner, Chatelet and Scottish Opera. I can’t travel anymore but I am lucky enough to have Scottish Opera on my doorstep. They accommodate my disabilities for me so that I’m still able to do the job.
My association with English National Opera goes back 20 years. I was sad to say goodbye to such a wonderful company a couple of years ago. I’d made some great friends and been involved in some ground-breaking productions. When David Campbell (a member of ENO chorus) wrote to tell me that he is running in the London Marathon for me and REVIVE MS Support I was completely overwhelmed and enormously touched. Thanks to him I feel like a part of me is still singing with that great company.
I try to raise money for REVIVE MS Support as I’m hugely indebted to them. When I first realised that my MS meant I had to give up the life I’ve loved so much I truly didn’t know where to turn. I had the good fortune to turn to REVIVE MS Support. This friendly charity helps all sufferers of MS and their families. In my case they showed me, emotionally and physically, how to come to terms with it and find a way to still be part of everyday life. MS is not only crippling to your body but to your mind too but with careful management it doesn’t have to stop you. I used to climb mountains here in Scotland. I still climb mountains but they are not the ones you can see with the naked eye.
So…when David is running the London Marathon I shall be running right beside him. Thank you, David, for deciding to run for me and REVIVE MS Support.
DAVID'S LONDON MARATHON RUN FOR JENNY & REVIVE MS SUPPORT
Two years ago I was almost 19 stone and very much fitted the popular stereotype of an opera singer. I was finding my job at English National Opera increasingly tiring and my increasing size was a source of frustration.
The last straw came one afternoon as I tried to play football with my two sons and had to stop almost immediately I was so out of breath. Ashamed and embarrassed I vowed that enough was enough and signed up to a local gym and started a fitness and diet programme. I was encouraged and nagged by family and friends to persevere and, after just three months, I was thrilled to have lost 2 stone.
As my weight continued to drop and my fitness increased friends encouraged me to get out of the gym and take up running. Five kilometre jogs around a local park to start and then gradually increasing distances until I managed to run ten miles. In September 2012 I entered my first half marathon which I was delighted to finish in little more than 2 hours. Two more 'halfs' followed, and then, inspired by watching last year's event on television, I decided to enter the ballot for 'the big one' - a place in the 2014 London Marathon.
I was in the middle of a rehearsal for 'Magic Flute' when I got a message confirming my place. I immediately decided that I wanted to run in aid of my colleague and friend Jenny Wilson-Best and the charity ReviveMS Support which does so much to help and support her and many others living with Multiple Sclerosis. Jenny has been a regular member of ENO's extra chorus for a many years and has inspired all of us with the way she has battled her illness while continuing to sing and perform opera for many of the leading companies. In 2011 she reluctantly decided to stop travelling from her home in Glasgow to London and instead concentrate on working for Scottish Opera, since when we at ENO have very much missed her wonderful artistry, her ready smile and rather mischievous sense of humour.
A few weeks ago I travelled to Glasgow to visit Jenny and had a chance to look around ReviveMS Support. The range of therapies and treatments they provide is hugely impressive, but what struck me even more was the friendly and very caring atmosphere that the staff provide. Jenny told me that she particularly appreciates having the opportunity to drop in and to simply talk with others living with MS - as well as their carers - and the chance, over a cup of tea, to swap experiences and provide mutual support to one another.
I came back home inspired and determined to do my all to raise much-needed funds for such a worthy cause. As I write this in early January I have upped my distance to 16 miles and and have a total of 200 miles of training runs to complete before 13th April when I line up in Greenwich Park to embark on the 26 mile route through London to the finish at Buckingham Palace. You can keep in touch with how I get on by following my Twitter blog entries: @dafidave
Having started this in order to keep up with my children I was delighted when, just last weekend, my twelve year old son asked if he could come and run a race with me! That was something I simply couldn't have imagined happening just two years ago.
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