To kick off Carers Week 2021, we hear from Kerry, 43, who was already living with MS when she met Brian, 52. He is now her full-time carer
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) quite quickly in 2006. I'd had an episode of optic neuritis in 2004 (just in time for my brother's wedding!), then my entire right side went numb on the August bank holiday, which I thought was a trapped nerve. My GP telling me it was 'likely MS' floored me!
My long-term relationship ended in 2009, but not because of my condition. I then met and married another man, had a beautiful daughter in 2013, and my MS behaved for another three years.
In 2017, I was hospitalised for more than three weeks, culminating in an operation and leading to me needing a wheelchair on my discharge. My marriage had been stressed, but it deteriorated rapidly after this – we separated and have subsequently divorced.
And then, in 2018, I met Brian on a well-known online dating site. Our first date lasted eight hours, our second 14, and we're pretty much inseparable.
Lockdown was a bonus for us, as it enabled us to plan our future. We had decided very early in our relationship that this had to enable us to spend as much time together as possible!
We moved to Scotland from South Devon in October 2020, and Brian has officially been my full-time carer since then. For me, the key thing in making this successful has been full disclosure, right from day one, and communication.
I won't let MS define me, or restrict me in what I want and need from a relationship. Yes, of course it has an impact, it affects me physically and I can't pretend otherwise. But I've found that with the right person – and Brian is definitely my right person – it isn't an issue.
Brian loves me, so for him, being my carer is just a natural extension of that – he gets to handle my body and be far more intimate than maybe he would otherwise, but hey, I'd do it for him, so what's the issue?
I think I'd tell the 2006 me that for the right person, MS won't be an issue. And not to compromise – life really is too short.