A woman from Angus has shared her story of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and why she’s volunteering her time to support others.
This is MS Awareness Week (19-25 April), Tracy Scott from Arbroath spoke about her diagnosis with relapsing MS in 2015.
A learning design consultant, she is a volunteer for MS Society Scotland’s ‘My MS, My Way: Tayside’ project which offers support to people affected by MS in Angus, Dundee and Perth.
Tracy said: “After the births of my first two children I started experiencing what I now know were relapses. I had problems with my walking and sight. Speaking to doctors they put it down to hormones given that I’d just given birth and things subsided after a few months.
“It was only after the birth of my third child when I couldn’t lift him and had weakness that I was referred back to neurology and the process of getting a diagnosis started. That was when my son was about 10 months and he is now seven. I haven’t had any major relapses since then.
“I feel like I’m nothing special, but my friends and colleagues are often amazed at what I am able to do. I live healthily, eat well and get plenty of exercise. At the moment my main symptoms are buzzing in my hands and they can be a bit shaky. That’s something that sunshine usually helps me with but, of course, the pandemic has made it impossible to get away and everyone is stuck indoors a bit more.”
Tayside has the highest rate of the condition on the Scottish mainland while Scotland has one of the largest proportions in the world with more than 15,000 people living with MS. It damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think.
The My MS, My Way: Tayside project has already helped dozens of people diagnosed with MS in Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross to access support, counselling and information following its official launch in 2019.
The project is open to anyone affected by MS in the area and people affected are able to access free one-to-one confidential counselling, peer support sessions and exercise classes.
The project will be hosting a number of sessions during MS Awareness Week including peer support session, seated Pilates and a mental health webinar.
To find out more about upcoming sessions please visit: https://bit.ly/MyMSMyWay
Tracy continued: “My experience of being diagnosed wasn’t the greatest so the idea of My MS, My Way: Tayside supporting people through that is really good.
“For me, it felt like there was no time or a chance to ask questions. It all seemed very quick with the consultant, you were given your diagnosis and then just ‘on you go’.
“Having that opportunity to speak to someone who’s had a similar experience to tell you that MS isn’t a life sentence and that you can absolutely continue to live well would have been really valuable to me. I certainly would have felt more positive immediately after my diagnosis.
“That’s why I wanted to volunteer for peer to peer support – to be involved to help people have a better experience than I did.
“MS affects everyone differently so it’s good to have various options and ways of connecting.
“Last year I was on one of the project’s COVID webinars with neurologists from Ninewells and Perth Royal Infirmary. It was great to hear what was being done to tackle the situation and I was scribbling notes all the way through to keep people I knew up to date and reassure them.
“Having that blend of one-to-one and more general support is great. Not everyone will want to speak to someone and, similarly, many people would prefer to have contact with someone rather than just reading about MS.”
The project worked with MS clinicians to host webinars in 2020 addressing COVID-19 and its impacts on MS and treatment specifically for people living in the area to submit questions and learn about the impact of the virus.
My MS, My Way: Tayside was developed by the MS community in Tayside, when MS Society research found that there was significant demand for increased support services in Tayside, particularly for people newly diagnosed with the condition.
Morna Simpkins, Director of MS Society Scotland, said: “MS affects everyone differently and we’re pleased to be continuing to offer support for people across the area with this project.
“More than 15,000 of us are living with MS in Scotland and Tayside has one of the highest rates in the country.
“The support of our volunteers, like Tracy, makes a huge difference in being able to make sure that people feel supported and able to access the kind of information that will help them.
“If anyone affected by MS would like to find out more about ways they can improve their emotional wellbeing, self-management skills and resilience to live well with MS we’d encourage them to get in touch.”
The project was designed in partnership with a group of 35 local people with MS and activities will be delivered as part of a community partnership between local people living with MS, MS Society Scotland and MS Therapy Centre Tayside.
MS Society Angus, Dundee and Perth local groups played a key role in securing funding and will continue to work in the partnership.
MS is often painful and exhausting, and can cause problems with how we walk, move, see, think and feel. It’s unpredictable and different for everyone.
To find out more about the My MS, MY Way: Tayside project please call 01382 938 082 or visit: http://www.mssociety.org.uk/tayside-my-ms-m
About multiple sclerosis
· Over 15,000 people live with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scotland
· MS damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think
· It’s relentless, painful, and disabling
· It’s unpredictable and different for everyone