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“Something wasn’t right, but I kept putting it down to a bad day at work”

3_4.jpgDr James Carvell experienced a variety of symptoms that he put down to a lack of sleep or not eating well before meeting a neurologist and finally realising he has MS. 

MS-UK is based in Colchester where I grew up. It’s where I spent my school years playing sport, making lifelong friends and where I met my wife! We now live in London, where I am a doctor and we’ve recently welcomed our first baby – another life changing event!

Speaking of life changing days, my MS diagnosis came on 29 July 2016. Three years later I’m pleased to say I feel a lot more in control, but I vividly remember those early days.

Before my diagnosis, work, activity and day to day life were becoming more difficult. I was experiencing a real mix of symptoms that seemed unconnected. I had blurred vision (I thought this was because I refused to wear glasses), travel sickness (my driving?), I’d trip up whilst out running (lack of sleep following a night shift?), a heavy, painful leg (was it too much running?) and urinary problems (not sure about this one!).

Something wasn’t right, but I kept putting it down to a bad day at work or the fact I hadn’t slept well or hadn’t eaten well. I excused every symptom, yet at the same time, I couldn’t ignore them.

My diagnosis

Over those two years, I had my eyes checked by an optician, my leg checked by a physio, my heart checked by a cardiologist (my symptoms seemed to come on with exercise). I never put everything together until I met with a neurologist. After reeling off all my symptoms, everything clicked and I just knew, even before the MRI showing lesions and a lumbar puncture, which after talking with my neurologist again confirmed relapsing remitting MS.

I now have an infusion every month and yes, life has changed. But I have met some great people and sometimes its rubbish but a lot of the time it’s great and I am loving the journey! Over time it has made me realise the things that are important to me in life – my family, friends and my health.

Lifestyle changes

I have reduced external stressors by going less than full time at work, my wife Lianne has been so supportive in enabling me to do this. Sport always has and always will be hugely important to me. I keep up my cycling, swimming and gym time. Running is my biggest nemesis but I won’t give up on it! I think it is so important to talk to 

someone about how you are doing, whether friends, family, team mates, medical professionals, anyone!

Being diagnosed with MS makes you look back and think what did I do wrong? Was it that night I had too many drinks or that I hit my head playing rugby? I may never know. At some point, I stopped looking back and started looking at how I could help those in a similar situation to see that there are positives to be taken from MS, although it may not seem it at the time.

Making a difference

I wanted to do something to help people like me; those just diagnosed, scared of the future and worried whether they can carry on life as they knew it. I wanted to tell people that they can carry on. It makes you realise what is important to you and to focus on this.

So a year ago Lianne and I set up “Monkey Sox”. Monkey Sox is all about a monkey (with ginger hair, like me!) who lives with MS and wears Odd Sox! We design the socks to be odd to mirror how the body acts and feels different left to right for those living with MS. I experience most of my symptoms on my right side; right leg, right eye, right foot.

We started with a small number of socks, selling them to fundraise for the RideLondon 100 miles cycling event that coincided with my 2nd year of diagnosis. Now we’re selling Monkey Sox at markets, on our website and a few stores local to us in London. Monkey Sox is not-for-profit and we donate 50% net profits equally to 3 MS charities of which MS-UK is one, alongside the MS Society UK and MS Trust.

The future

We have exciting plans for Monkey Sox to grow and donate more and more each year to our charities! Through our Sports Sox we want to encourage an active lifestyle to improve the health of those with MS or not. You may have spotted some Monkey Sox on the streets at this year’s Colchester half marathon, London Asics 10K and Prudential RideLondon cycle. We have met many fantastic MS-UK supporters this year, many of whom are wearing Monkey Sox to train, race and relax in - thank you all!

Watch this space as we’re making a #TeamPurple sock just for MS-UK too and they will be revealed soon! 8.jpg

MS is a life-changing diagnosis, there is no denying that. But Monkey Sox has really helped me talk about MS positively, feel supported and in control. I hope that other people feel the same when they find out about Monkey Sox. Whether you are newly diagnosed, have been living with MS for years, or are the partner or friend of someone living with MS. I know that Monkey Sox makes talking about MS easier!

Lianne and I would love to meet more Monkey Sox friends, so feel free to get in touch. Find us on social media @monkeysox or visit our website www.monkeysox.org to order your socks.

I end with a huge thank you to the team and community at MS-UK. You are all fantastic, and you’ve made a big difference to me and Lianne in more ways than you know, and we know you will for years to come.