Did you know that around 2.3 million people have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the cause is still unknown?
Women are significantly more likely to develop MS than men, and first symptoms are normally experienced between the ages of 20 and 40. It’s also notoriously difficult to diagnose.
So, varying symptoms at a range of levels of severity which can present in women between 20 and 40… MS doesn’t immediately jump to mind does it?
That’s why we wanted to share Kate’s story.
Not only so we can learn more about this disease, but to also share how Kate has turned her experience into an opportunity to help others and challenge herself. Proving, that Kate is so much More Than her diagnosis.
Up until 2016 I was in perfect health. I’d just turned 25, returned from travel and life was great. It was 2 days before Easter when my body started exhibiting strange symptoms.
It started in my feet and crept all the way up to my hips – it was a combination of numbness and pins and needles. I went to the doctor who ordered a MRI of my lower spine, with a slipped disk being the main concern. Nothing came up on my scan, so my doctor thought it was either sciatica or stress. I went on to compete in a tennis tournament and holiday with family, all still completely numb.
After a few weeks the feeling passed, and I returned to normal. Over the course of 2016, the symptoms returned and vanished, always completely bizarre and unpredictable. It eventually spread to my face, with numbness and pins and needles all the way down the left side of my face. It was the end of 2016 that I was finally referred to a neurologist and March 2017 that I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The diagnosis was an absolute shock to everyone, including every medical professional that I had seen over the year for my persisting strange symptoms. I always thought that MS only happened to old ladies – it might shock you to know that the average age of diagnosis is 30.
What you need to know about MS
- Three quarters of people living with MS are female.
- There is currently no cure for MS, only medication available to slow the progression of the disease.
- MS is a condition of the central nervous system. It is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the myelin sheath (a protective covering of nerves), leaving scar tissue otherwise known as lesions. People with MS experience these lesions on their spinal cord and/or brain.
- I won’t bore you with all of the symptoms (and it’s a long list) and it’s so different for everyone but some symptoms can include loss of balance, fatigue, vision loss, pain, spasms, bladder issues, depression etc…. the list goes on.
It been a year since I was diagnosed with MS.
You wouldn’t know that I had anything wrong unless I told you, it’s commonly known as the invisible disease. My early diagnosis has given me a much better chance of living a relatively normal life. For many people in the MS community, this is not the case. That’s the thing about MS – it varies from person to person in both symptoms and severity. And, it’s difficulty to diagnose can result in a delay in treatment.
The challenges for me, have been mostly mental. That’s where MS Australia have jumped in and given me the support that I needed. They paired me up with a girl in Melbourne also living with MS. They also have nurses on call to answer every question and explain everything in a caring and genuine manner (a skill which unfortunately a number of neurologists seem to lack).
Even the smallest things can be made tricky by MS. Little things like travel insurance and superannuation require a bit of planning and thought now. Just knowing that MS Australia is there to support me, is a huge relief.
There are two reasons it’s important for me to share this story so publicly. The first, is my wanting to raise awareness about MS. I would urge anyone suffering strange symptoms to get it checked out. Get a second, third or even fourth professional opinion, if that’s what it takes. MS doesn’t discriminate – it can literally happen to anyone for no reason.
Secondly, because I want to raise funds for an AMAZING charity and help other people who are suffering from MS. Being on MS Facebook groups has exposed me to a range of cases of MS and highlighted the challenges they and their families face on a daily basis. And, I want to do my part to help them as best I can.
My family, friends and colleagues and have been a massive support since I was diagnosed. They had an uncanny ability to know what I needed at exactly the right time, whether it be to cry, laugh or drink some wine. Having such a supportive group around me makes a world of difference to me. And I want to help support others going through the same thing.
Now here’s the fun stuff! – I am going to China to raise funds for MS Australia! I am participating in a fundraiser where myself and other team mates will trek across the Great Wall of China. It’s a 5 day trek that we will be completing and will be a huge endurance challenge (the wall is quite uneven and steep).
I wanted to take the opportunity to challenge myself as well as make a positive difference by raising funds for a charity which has helped me so much.
Thank you for reading my story. It’s my hope that this story helps someone get an early diagnosis or raise extra money for MS.
If you or your family want to learn more about MS, you can visit MS Australia here, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America here or MS Society UK here.
How you can help Kate
I will be trekking the Great Wall of China to raise funds and awareness for MS Australia.
Every cent raised goes directly to MS Australia. I have set myself a target of $4,000 and at the time of writing this, I have raised $1600. I’ll be working up a sweat until September to prepare for the challenge ahead of me.