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Fundraiser of the Month - Sharon Asher

Posted on: May 20 2019

2019 - Blog Banners (3).png

Congratulations to Sharon Asher who is this May's Fundraiser of the Month! Back in September, Sharon travelled to Scotland to cycle the slopes around the shores of the famous Loch Ness in aid of MS-UK. We caught up with her recently so she could tell us what it was like to take on a gruelling 65-mile cycle race with no previous cycling experience...

I signed up to the Etape Loch Ness cycle event last September. A close friend had decided that we would become the 'Invernairne Try Team', a team of four who would undertake challenges to test ourselves and keep fit. The initial plan was to try a triathlon, but somehow we ended up entering the Etape Loch Ness, a 65-mile cycle event that starts and finishes in Inverness, and which takes 5,600 cyclists around Loch Ness, offering spectacular views and scenery alongside some physically and mentally challenging climbs. I decided that if I was going to attempt it, I should try to raise money for a charitable cause and I chose MS-UK. Thankfully, deciding to ride for a cause kept me going to the finish line.  

My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1973 when I was ten years old. Back then there was little in the way of help and support and life wasn’t easy for my mum or us as a family. Sadly my brother has recently been diagnosed with MS but hopefully, with advances in research, medication, therapy, and support, his experience will be a lot more positive. I also think that by fundraising it has brought awareness to the fact that my brother has the condition and recognition of the issues faced by those diagnosed with what is often a misunderstood condition. 

I chose MS-UK because they support and encourage those with MS to continue to live life and challenge themselves. They also offer invaluable support through the MS-UK Helpline, MS-UK Counselling and the excellent magazine, New Pathways. I feel that if we previously had access to some of the services offered by MS-UK, life for us a family might have been a little easier.  

I think the biggest challenge was the fact that neither the rest of my team or I were experienced cyclists. We were all quite fit for our respective ages but most of our training over the winter had to be indoors, as with short days and icy mornings we couldn’t really get out on the bikes until March. We also had the challenge of the five-mile hill hanging over us, and all we could do was push ourselves on indoor bikes with no idea what lay in store. 

When we finally hit the road on the day, we had survived a few crashes and miscommunications, learned how to change a bike tyre, and stocked up with jelly beans to keep us going, but the furthest we had cycled was 40 miles. Thankfully the weather was kind and we all managed to complete it without any disasters. My indoor training really paid off and I am delighted to report that I finished in the middle of the pack and managed to stay on my bike up the five-mile climb. It was tough though and I was so relieved to hear the piper who welcomes riders to the top. Never has the sound of bagpipes been so welcome!

From then on it was almost all downhill, with a few nasty but shorter climbs thrown in to keep you focused. Thankfully the road home was dotted with fabulous volunteers - their encouragement was invaluable to seeing us all home. 

Would I do it again? Well, I did it enjoy it and I’ve registered interest for next year. I don’t have to make my mind up until September, but it would be a shame not to tackle it again with a bit more training and experience. However, having said that, we’ve still got a triathlon to attempt and as I’m a rubbish swimmer, the next challenge may have to be in the swimming pool. To be honest, I think I’d rather tackle that hill again! 

I have always felt that it is important to challenge yourself, and while I am fortunate to be fit and healthy enough to take on new challenges, I’ll continue to try new things. Hopefully, the money raised, with the help of MS-UK, will encourage those with MS to not give up, find ways to make the most of life and overcome their personal challenges. 

For fundraising, I used JustGiving, mainly because it makes it easy to share your page on social media and enables you to post updates to keep your donors informed. It also deals with Gift Aid, which added another £500 to my fund. Emailing the link to my friends and family and sharing updates on Facebook was invaluable. I also feel that it is essential to thank your donors personally and I took time to thank them individually on Facebook and by email if I had their email address. 

Do something different for MS-UK!

If you would like to try your hand at fundraising for MS-UK, contact Lucy on 01206 226 500, or email lucy@ms-uk.org.

A year in the life... Celebrating the stories of five MSers over coffee and cake

Posted on: May 20 2019

Over the past year we have been following the progress of five people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) and capturing, in their own words, an insight into what it is like to live each day with the condition.

These eye-opening stories were recently published in our ‘A year in the life of…’ booklet, a project designed to explore the real-life experiences of MS through topics such as independence, mental health and physical wellbeing and to show how the funding from the National Lottery Community Fund has had a positive impact on the work of our Josephs Court wellness centre.

To celebrate the publication of this booklet, we were recently visited by Jess Leonard, Funding Officer of the National Lottery Community Fund, who met the incredible people behind the case study over coffee and a slice or two of cake.

Diana Crowe, Head of Services said, ‘It was great for our clients who participated in our case study project to meet Jess.

‘It gave them an opportunity to discuss how much they have enjoyed writing for MS-UK and reflecting on their own experiences.

‘Jess really enjoyed the afternoon meeting some of those who were benefiting from the funding awarded to MS-UK’s Josephs Court.’

From Diana and Dean, and the rest of the MS-UK team, we want to thank Jess for visiting us last week.

Bank holiday closing times

Posted on: May 20 2019

Hi everyone,

MS-UK will be closed on the bank holiday following this weekend, so just to remind you of the times:

Friday 24 May - open from 9am - 5pm

Monday 27 May - closed

This includes the MS-UK Helpline. If you would like to leave a message for our helpline team over the weekend, please email us, and we will respond when we get back on Tuesday.

Thank you all and do have a lovely bank holiday!

Best wishes, The MS-UK team

Wow - thank you Colchester Half Marathon 2019!

Posted on: May 20 2019

On Sunday March 23, more than four thousand people took to the streets of Colchester to be part of the towns’ biggest community sporting event the year, the Colchester Half Marathon.

The event is organised by a group of volunteers from Colchester Colne Round Table who work tirelessly throughout the year to stage this fantastic event. All the proceeds from the race are shared between local charities. 

This year MS-UK were lucky enough to have been chosen as the main charity beneficiary for the event. Brain injury charity Headway Essex were the other charity partners. MS-UK worked closely with the organisers and recruited a team of over 100 volunteers and 50 runners to support the event.

Taking on a half marathon is brave enough, but not enough of a challenge for MS-UK’s long term supporter Clare Thompson and her running buddy Dave, who completed the course wearing an MS-UK branded purple tyre!

It was a great day, everyone had loads of fun and the Great British weather was exceptionally kind to us too.

This week MS-UK received a very handsome donation of £48,750 from the event. Jill Purcell, MS-UK’s Fundraising Manager said 'We are delighted to receive such a fantastic sum of money raised from the event. The amount is equivalent to MS-UK being able to provide specialised supervised exercise sessions to more than 50 clients for a whole year at Josephs Court, our wellness centre in Colchester. Thank you to the Colchester Half Marathon committee, and all runners and volunteers for their generous support. It is always a great event which significantly benefits the local community too'.

Every penny raised from the Colchester Half Marathon helps MS-UK support even more people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), by raising awareness of the condition and offering services like our helpline, MS-UK Counselling and New Pathways magazine.

Thank you so much to all involved and our amazing #TeamPurple runners!

Inspired? Get in touch with our fundraising team today!

MS and guilt

Posted on: May 15 2019

Annabel Nicklin.jpgMS-UK counsellor Annabel Nicklin discusses how MS can cause feelings of guilt

This week, 13-19 May, is Mental Health Awareness week. People affected by MS can often experience associating effects on their mental health too. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what somebody means when they talk about mental health issues, and this is why Mental Health Awareness week exists. They aim to make discussions of mental health clearer and a foundation stronger support networks. By supporting Mental Health Awareness week, we can pave the way for greater openness when it comes to mental health, and strive to help those that are further affected by other conditions too.

We can all experience guilt, like any other emotion within our daily lives. Some people experience it occasionally, whilst others may experience it more frequently. Guilt can be a difficult emotion to identify and can often be disguised by feelings of anger or resentment. The feeling can often rear its head when we identify and perceive we have caused ourselves or somebody else a wrongdoing or harm. Guilt can leave us feeling pretty rubbish!

People living with a long-term health condition can experience the grieving process, which is not linked to the death of a loved one. Guilt can be a part of the grieving process where the person is seeking to try and find the answers to their questions of why something is happening to them and the impact that has on others.

People living with MS may experience this feeling for a number of reasons, some of which are discussed below

  • Letting their family, friends and colleagues down by being diagnosed with MS
  • Their MS has put additional burdens on their family life; for example through a change of lifestyle or reduced household income
  • Needing to reduce work hours, socialising, attendance at special occasions and hobbies
  • A need to now rely on others in a way they didn’t before
  • Feel personally responsible for developing MS because they didn’t exercise enough, eat healthily enough or go to their GP early enough. Or wish they had fought harder to be heard by health professionals
  • Being punished for something they feel they did wrong towards somebody else
  • Family members may also experience guilt as they may not feel they’re ‘caring enough’ or that they don’t have enough patience or compassion towards the person living with MS. Or they may blame the person for the challenges presented which can provoke guilt in the person living with MS

Most people will experience feelings of guilt at some point in their life. However, if you notice that you are constantly apologising to yourself or others this could be a telling sign that you may be experiencing feelings of guilt. Communication is key to challenging these feelings. Communicating with somebody you trust such as a family member, friend, colleague or health professional can help you to start alleviating these feelings.

If we do not recognise and process feelings of guilt this can potentially affect our mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes people may want to talk with an experienced mental health professional about their feelings of guilt in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental setting. This could be through:

Counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This can provide space for the person to explore and examine their thoughts and feelings. Counselling can help the person identify new ways of thinking and behaving which can improve the way they feel. 

Relationship or family therapy

The whole family may want to access counselling. This may help family members understand when it might be MS that they perceive to be the ‘problem’ or ‘worry’ and when it is something else.

Mindfulness and meditation

Can help the person to be aware of the present moment where they can calmly recognise and accept their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgement. This can be a very powerful tool in helping to alleviate feelings of guilt.

You may have read this article and relate to some of what was shared. Others may be thinking that it isn’t relevant at all. As individuals we respond differently to feelings of guilt but what is important to remember is that one of the best ways to cope with feelings of guilt is to try and be as compassionate towards yourself as you would be to somebody else.

This extract was taken from issue 113 of New Pathways magazine, the MS magazine for people with MS, by people with MS.

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Veggie Comfort Food

Posted on: May 14 2019

BUTTERNUT MAC'N'CHEESE picture.jpgThis week is National Vegetarian Week, and whether you’re a veggie looking to give something new a go or completely new to vegetarian eating, we have a simple but scrumptious recipe for you to try! We present you with…

Butternut Mac & Cheese, a recipe featured from MOB Kitchen: Feed 4 or more for under £10, by Ben Lebus, published by Pavilion Books. The veggie version of this book, MOB Veggie, is going to be realeased on 4 July 2019.

‘The creamiest mac ‘n’ cheese in the land. Butternut squash brings the sweetness. This is an absolute worldy of an M’N’C!’

Serves 4, 45 minutes preparation and cooking time.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • 560 ml (1 pint) whole milk                                                                                               © HaaralaHamilton
  • Plain (all-purpose) flour
  • Dijon mustard
  • 500 g (1 lb/2 oz) macaroni
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6).
  2. Peel a butternut squash and cut it into cubes. Place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in the hot oven for 25 minutes (until soft, not browning though).
  3. When the butternut is ready, take two-thirds of it and add to a blender. Pour the milk into the blender too, and blitz until smooth.
  4. Place a large saucepan on the heat. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 1½ tablespoons of flour. Whisk it together until the flour is absorbed by the oil. At this point, start gradually adding your blended butternut mix, whisking constantly. Once mixed in, add 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
  5. Get the macaroni on a separate pan (following the instructions on the packet).
  6. Time to grate your cheese. Finely grate 300 g (10½ oz) of Cheddar and 200 g (7 oz) of Parmesan.
  7. Into the butternut sauce, add 3 chopped sage leaves and a small handful of chopped rosemary. Mix them in. Then chuck in the remaining one-third of the roasted cubed butternut.
  8. Drain your macaroni, and then add it to the butternut squash pan. Mix it all together. Cheese time. Add the cheese, but save enough to sprinkle over the macaroni before going in the oven.
  9. Fold the cheese in. Once it has melted, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the macaroni into a baking dish. Sprinkle your leftover cheese on top. Add some sage and rosemary leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  10. Place under the grill (broiler) for 3–4 minutes, keeping an eye on it so the cheese doesn’t burn.
  11. When the cheese is nicely browned, remove the dish from the grill. Dole up and tuck in! Enjoy, mob!

We would like your thoughts on loneliness and isolation...

Posted on: May 09 2019

Hello,Photo of Diana from MS-UK

I wanted to invite you to complete our survey which launched today about loneliness and isolation.

Last year we consulted with the MS community to inform the development of our new strategy. The most talked about gap for people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) across the UK was appropriate support to tackle loneliness and isolation. We were told that there was simply not enough support to overcome the barriers contributing toward their isolation and not enough available to help them feel a part of something, connected to the world and less lonely.

We are now beginning to look at this area and we would like to understand this issue a bit more. The voices of people affected by multiple sclerosis inform all our work and this insight is incredibly valuable as it brings us perspectives that no one else can give. I hope you will take five minutes to complete this short survey and help us stay on course to provide people affected by MS not only with what they want from us, but crucially, how they want it. 

Take the survey online today

The topics of loneliness and isolation can be difficult to deal with at times, so if you would like any support at all please get in touch with our helpline. You can email the helpline, call us on 0800 783 0518 or connect with us online.

Thank you so much for your contribution, 

Best wishes,

Diana

Head of Services

Volunteer Counsellor opportunity...

Posted on: May 01 2019

Hello,MS-UK Counselling volunteers graphic

I wanted to let you know about a new volunteering opportunity here at MS-UK.

We are looking for Volunteer Counsellors to join our team to provide telephone counselling sessions to those affected by multiple sclerosis. If you have experience of delivering person centred and telephone counselling please get in touch. The role is based at our office in Colchester and full training will be provided on 28 and 29 May 2019.

You can find out all about this opportunity on our volunteering web page, and the closing date is 10 May. 

MS-UK Counselling is the only service of its kind available to people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the UK, so you will be joining a dedicated team that really makes a difference.

Best wishes,

Sarah

General Manager

Find out more today

Ready to run? The marathon ballot is open!

Posted on: May 01 2019

Photo of MS-UK marathon runnerHello,

We can't quite believe it but we have just seen another Virgin Money London Marathon take place and it was amazing to see so many #TeamPurple runners taking on the challenge in aid of MS-UK! Thank you to every single person who made the day so special. 

Now we're looking to next year and the date has been announced - 26 April 2020! The ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon is now open, so visit the website to register today! It will close this Friday at 5pm, 03 May. 

Register for the ballot

Good luck everyone!

Jill

Fundraising Manager