MS: I know how you feel, Jack

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When I tell people I have Multiple Sclerosis their immediate reaction is to say, ‘Oh, my friend’s sister/neighbour/brother-in-law has MS’.

Now, with the news that reality tv star Jack Osbourne has been diagnosed, they will inevitably say, ‘Oh, isn’t that what Jack Osbourne has?’

Jack has to be one of the most high-profile faces to be diagnosed in recent times. Apart from him the only ‘celebrities’ I could name who have MS are Montel Williams, the US talk-show host, and David and Alan Osmond, brother and nephew of Donny and Marie.

From a selfish perspective, Jack’s diagnosis means that MS is in the news. It’s being talked about and as a result people’s understanding can only be increased.

On Monday, when the news came out, Multiple Sclerosis was trending worldwide on Twitter. That level of exposure for the condition, and the charities that help those who have been diagnosed, cannot be underestimated.

But it was with a heavy heart that I heard the news. Every time I hear of another young person being diagnosed - of which there are 50 every week in the UK - I feel a heavy heart.

That’s not to say that a diagnosis of MS is the worst thing in the world, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

It’s the most common disabling neurological condition and it currently has no cure.

The list of symptoms it can cause is never-ending and it is usually diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40.

These facts and figures are what I constantly try and educate people about, and I have always been very vocal about my diagnosis, raising awareness at every chance I get.

So to have Jack doing the same, in such an open and honest manner, is refreshing.

However, I understand why he has chosen to be so forthcoming.

When I was diagnosed, three years ago, I immediately told my family and friends, and within the week, my colleagues too.

MS is not something to be embarrassed about and it is not something that I wish to hide.

However, it does not define me as a person. I am still a mum, a wife, a daughter - and much, much more.

Yet there is no doubt that there are times when the impact MS is having on me manifests itself with a wide and varied range of symptoms.

On countless occasions I have had people tell me I look ‘well’ when in fact I am battling with any number of problems, from debilitating fatigue and muscle spasms, to an ‘overactive’ bladder and excrutiating pain.

So, it makes sense that those close to me, and those I work with, understand that the ‘well’ looking Catherine is, in fact, struggling a bit.

Their support is what gets me through the relapses that can attack my body at any time and with no warning.

I am not fighting MS on my own, but with everyone who cares about me, fighting alongside me.

It is already obvious that Jack is as lucky as me. He has a family that are close-knit and his fiancee is supportive.

He also has a fantastic attitude, and one that mirrors my own.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he has instead said that his new motto is ‘Adapt and Overcome’.

This positive outlook is what will keep him ‘up’ when the down days appear.

Recently, I had to use a stick to walk. Instead of seeing this as a negative, I simply went out and bought the best looking stick I could find.

There’s always a positive in every negative. For me, it is very simple.

Yes, I have MS, but I appreciate life more.

It will not break my spirit or the ambitions I have for myself. In fact, it will encourage me to do the very opposite.

I hope that Jack continues to be vocal and open about his diagnosis and, in time, help raise awareness. In the meantime, I wish him every luck in the world as he fights alongside the 2.5million people who have MS worldwide.

If you want to read more about Catherine’s story you can read her blog at alifecopingwithms.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @catdoran

For more information on Multiple Sclerosis see the MS Society website, www.mssociety.org.uk or contact the local MS Society Foyle branch on (028) 71360831.