have MS, MS doesn't have me
I have had my fair share of personal achievements however such as a wonderful wife, four beautiful children and my own thriving business. The biggest challenge I have had to face, and this one was not planned, was being diagnosed, in 2006, at the age of thirty four with having Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Looking back on the past, having jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane, bungee-jumped off somewhere 250 feet high and racing cars around circuits at break-neck speeds, the diagnosis had to be the scariest of anything I had faced before.
I was taken ill in 2005 whilst racing, being sent off to my doctor's which gradually turned into a long journey of test after test. They ranged from x-rays to blood tests to MRI scans to finally a lumber puncture. Throughout all of this, deep down I knew and felt that something wasn't quite right.
The next year soon came along, and with it a letter through my door. The gist of the letter: "Unfortunately your results are positive for Multiple Sclerosis", at which point it felt as if the bottom had fallen out of my world. I had heard of MS before, but to be labelled with this medical term without knowing all too much about it was more than overwhelming.
I went through a range of emotions after the initial diagnosis and found myself with lots of questions such as "Why me? What have I done wrong to get this?". I found that the hardest part of diagnosis was the psychological effect that MS has on you. In my head, it was a case of; if you break your leg, you know why it hurts. When you feel your legs are extremely heavy (where you have days where it is hard to simply walk), the numbness that I had been experiencing in both my arms and legs for a while, and also the extreme fatigue that felt so confusingly draining, there is no reasonable explanation in my mind that can explain these.
Another aspect that was emotionally draining was the thought of my family and their reaction to this diagnosis - for them to understand what the future might hold.
Then came denial. Where it felt logical to not accept the offered medication, because in my mind it felt as though I would be letting the MS 'win'. I wouldn't let myself feel that I wasn't in control when I had the chance.
Realisation soon came that out of everything, I did need the medication to control the relapses, the mood-swings that I also suffered from and to accept that this needed to happen before I had any control back. It was not only the realisation for my own suffering, but also thinking about the family and friends around me that were suffering with me.
I think that the turn around point for me, which I can't honestly pin point down exactly, was finally admitting, genuinely, that I had MS to myself. I finally admitted that I needed help, I needed the help from others around me. I needed to stop hypothetically crawling into a little ball and hiding away from this big part of my life that was looming over me, and try to draw a positive out of this negative.
Having the strong mentality within myself of "I have MS, MS doesn't have me" has helped me to stand up and fight back. It also gave me the strength to fight for what is most important to me, my family.
Something that has come with my changed mindset, are the thoughts I have towards other people who have been diagnosed with MS but that have more severe symptoms, I feel I can do something to challenge myself further, that I still have strength in me.
My first plan from this changed mindset is to go back to school! Night school, where I hope to obtain a qualification in guidance counselling, which I then want to use by passing on the positive mindsets that I have found from my negative situation to newly diagnosed people of MS. Trying to help them in any way I can to find this positive mentality that aids you through the hard part of the diagnosis - being able to give my own knowledge and experience as a guide.
My new challenge however, that is already gathering some momentum is completing the 'Three Peaks Challenge' in June of this year. This involves climbing the three highest mountains in Britain (Ben Nevis, Scaffell Pike and Snowdon), if that didn't sound challenging enough, it's to be completed in 24 hours! (Gulp!) I have set up a JustGiving page raising money for the MS Society which you can donate to by clicking the link below.
Even though this challenge hasn't been completed yet, following my love of challenges, I already have one set for 2014 and 2015 - these being to climb Mount Kilamanjaro and maybe even Everest (we can all hope!).
All money raised from any fundraising event for the MS Society is ultimately heading for that final goal of a cure.
I believe that the first step is making everything a lot easier for yourself. When you change your mentality to that of a positive one, it really does have a huge difference in your whole outlook on the diagnosis.
First change your mentality, then everything else comes much easier.
Find that positive, even if it is a small one, that is inside the negative.
Together to beat MS
Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS. It affects two million more.
We offer hope for the future by investing millions in research, and help for today through our information, support and campaigning.
To help Stuart raise funds for MS Society click here.