I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1994. I then thought my life was over, but it has carried on quite happily. After doing a 12-day hike in Nepal with my husband, I returned home to Cambridge, England and thought “I have the energy to do something for others”. What first drew my attention was an article in the local church newsletter looking for people to join the support committee of the Cambridge and District MS Society. As I had then lived with MS for almost 5 years, I thought this was something that I had come to understand and could help others with.
The first person on my support list was a married woman with 2 children and 2 dogs. We saw each other most weeks and became close friends until she moved to South London after a divorce.
Since then there have been other people over the years, but my most recent challenge has been helping a severely disabled woman in the midst of a divorce. This woman is facing the possibility that she will have to move out of her jointly owned home. I set up a family law lawyer for her and that has been an important contribution to her well being. However, the main thing I can do for her is to be with her as a friend through this experience which we are going through together.
Along with my work for the support committee, six years ago I became the chair of the Cambridge and District Group of the MS Society. The UK MS Society in the last few years celebrated its 60th birthday and as part of that I did a sponsored hike I the Rocky Mountains and raised £1,000.
Sometimes it feels as though life is just too demanding, and then I remember to do what I can and not expect more than that from myself. For instance, I organized an exercise class for people with MS and that is still going strong 15 years later, and several years ago I was involved in organizing a disability consultant for the Cambridge & District group of the MS Society. Since disability benefits are currently being cut, this is an important contact for our members. However, it costs us close to five thousand pounds per year, so we are always keeping in mind how to cover this very necessary expense. I think my motto should be: as long as I can, I will.