Eleven years ago, at the age of fifteen, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis following episodes of numbness and double vision. When I was given the news I had no idea what MS was and how it could affect my life. After reading up on MS I was scared and found my diagnosis very hard to accept.
Multiple Sclerosis is the most common progressive neurological condition affecting young adults, with diagnosis generally between the ages of 20 and 40. MS is the result of damage to the myelin - a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. When myelin is damaged this interferes with messages from the brain and other parts of the body causing a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, mobility issues and problems with co-ordination. In Scotland, there are around 10,500 people with MS - more people per capita than anywhere else in the world.
There is currently no cure for MS. For some people, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission while for others it has a progressive pattern. For everyone, it makes life unpredictable.
I decided during January 2011 that I wanted to set myself a difficult and meaningful personal challenge. I was very keen to test myself and to raise money for the MS Society in the process so I decided to take up distance running. I was also aware of many negative stories about MS and I became determined to try and create my own positive story.
I have now participated in five events to raise money for MS Society Scotland. They are:
1) Inverness half-marathon (13th March 2011) (2 hours, 22 minutes)
2) Loch Ness marathon (2nd October 2011) (4 hours, 58 minutes)
3) Inverness half-marathon (11th March 2012) (2 hours, 6 minutes)
Unfortunately due to health issues I had to take a period of time out from running while I awaited an operation. I had an operation in May 2013 which helped me get back into running during the summer of 2013.
After resuming running during summer 2013, I trained hard to be fit to run in the Great Scottish Run which, despite a late injury to my foot I ran in a new personal best time for the half-marathon distance. A few weeks after the half-marathon I completed my fifth event for MS Society - the Culloden 17.46k around the hilly perimeter roads of the historic Culloden Battlefield.
4) Great Scottish Run (half-marathon) (6th October 2013) (1 hour, 58 minutes)
5) Culloden 17.46km (27th October 2013) (1 hour, 39 minutes)
Unfortunately, during November 2013, whilst training for a marathon, I suffered a significant health setback. I had another operation in January 2014 which did not go as planned and resulted in a very difficult recovery period due to several complications. My health during 2014 and into 2015 has not been good due to ongoing health issues (not all of which are related to MS). While I have had this forced break from running I have worked hard to continue to raise awareness of MS and also raise funds in different ways including holding raffles, coffee mornings and auctioning signed items donated by celebrities and sports men and women. I aim to be back running soon and still have my mind set on some exciting goals I want to acheive in the future...
I cannot emphasise how important the day I ran the marathon has been to my life with MS. That day was probably the most important in my life and was a point where I really accepted my diagnosis, something I had struggled with from the outset. Being so young when I was diagnosed made me feel that I had to grow up fast and had a lot of worries about the future. I feel more positive about the future. I am receiving a drug called Tysabri once a month by infusion at my local hospital which has really helped keep my MS under control. I have been on the drug for over five years now and, unlike other treatments I have had in the past, seems to be working well for me
The MS Society depends entirely on charitable fundraising and the support of the public and volunteers to be able to do their work.
Your donation can help in so many ways, for example:
- A donation of £5 would provide essential information to three people diagnosed with MS.
- A donation of £10 would help provide vital information leaflets about MS and could fund a much needed call to the MS Society helpline.
- A donation of £20 would help fund the cost of someone receiving 24-hour nursing care at the respite care centre.
- A donation of £25 could fund 100 copies of the 'What is MS?' booklet.
- A donation of £30 would help towards the running costs of the MS freephone helpline.
- A donation of £50 would contribute to the individual support grant programme that provides mobility aids, adaptations and equipment and could pay for a days training for a volunteer helpline officer, who make sure people affected by MS have someone to talk to.
- A donation of £54 funds an hour of research into finding better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for MS
You can also now donate to my fundraising page using JustTextGiving. Just text MSSR89 to 70070 followed by the amount you wish to donate. e.g to sponsor me £5, text MSSR89 £5 to 70070.
In September 2012, I attended the MS Society Awards in London as a finalist for MS Young Person of the Year. I did not win the award but had a fantastic day and it was a great honour to be part of.
In October 2013, I was again invited to the MS Society Awards after being shortlisted in the MS Fundraiser of the Year and MS Young Person of the Year categories. I won the category of MS Young Person of the Year 2013 - a fantastic honour.
In October 2014, I was again shortlisted as a finalist in the MS Society Awards in the MS Fundraiser of the Year category.
During my time out from running due to requiring two operations within a few months, I continued to actively fundraise through alternate methods and also kept raising awareness of MS through social networking. I regularly raise awareness of MS through my Twitter account @MS_marathon and this, I feel, has really helped raise the profile of MS and also put me in contact with many fantastic people who have been a great support to me.For more on my own MS story, including my advice to those newly diagnosed with MS please see here. > #MyMSstory#
After an MS diagnosis it can be very easy to shut yourself away and not want to talk about it. When I was diagnosed I felt like this initially but then I gradually became more open with my family and my friends and I feel this support was extremely important. Also, as I said above, acceptance of MS is vital in helping you look forward. This took me many years but was a huge step in helping me to progress with my life. I would also advise anyone with MS to discuss possible treatments with an MS specialist nurse, have a good, healthy diet and also to try and exercise. Exercise, in particular, has been extremely beneficial to me.
Thank you very much for your support to this fantastic cause. Your donation truly means so much to both myself personally and, of course, to MS Society Scotland. Every single penny donated is very much appreciated and MS Society Scotland relies solely on charitable donations so please dig deep and support my efforts in supporting this great charity.
Your support can help change lives.http://www.mssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/Fundraising%20and%20donating/MS%20Connect%20autmn%202011.pdf http://blog.justgiving.com/community/top-tips-from-a-marathon-fundraiser http://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-support/community-blog/2013/05/world-ms-day-2013-stuarts-motto http://somecallmejem.blogspot.com/2011/06/running-for-cause.html