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Guest blog: “I feel like I’m getting one over on my MS”

Posted on: April 25 2019

As part of MS Awareness Week, in this guest blog Nigel tells us all about the social side of exercising and how it has helped him...

Photo of Nigel, MS-UK clientI have been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for thirty-five years. In 2014 I noticed that walking was becoming more difficult and my MS nurse recommended that I contacted Josephs Court, MS-UK’s wellness centre in Colchester, Essex. I attended twice a week to exercise and became a founding member of their Steering Group. Before I was diagnosed with MS, I exercised every weekday walking for 10-15 minutes to the office where I worked in London. At lunchtime I would occasionally go for a 30 minute walk if the weather was kind, and this felt like it was a sufficient form of exercise. However I was unfortunately diagnosed with MS, but nevertheless I continued exercising in the same way for another 13 years until I eventually changed jobs in 1996. By then I commuted to Basildon by car – therefore my exercise regime came to an end.

But now, I visit Josephs Court two mornings a week, for 2-3 hours each time, and use most of the equipment available. I’ve also increased my exercise since the arrival of the latest university students, as one of them has given me some rigorous exercises using the parallel bars.

Now I feel that doing gentle exercise gives me a feeling of “getting one over on my MS” – it isn’t going to stop me from doing something that I enjoy, and there is a social aspect too. We are all suffering with the same disease label yet we don’t talk about it, we just enjoy one another’s company. The social aspect means I now have someone else to talk to, and shows that I needed something to relieve the boredom of not working, as I spent three years applying for jobs with no luck.

Finally, I thoroughly enjoying working with the student physiotherapist Becca, as she has brought new ways of exercising to me. I also find volunteering for MS-UK therapeutic – it is another reason for existing and gives me purpose.

Find out more about exercise in our Choices booklet (PDF document)

Find out more about MS Awareness Week

Guest blog: Gogglebox’s Scott talks trains, tests and tablets...

Posted on: April 15 2019

In this guest blog Scott McCormick talks about his journey for blood tests in London, and how we really wishes he’d stopped at a chemist...Photo of Scott on way home after blood test on the train

Another instalment as I am taken by the train to the hallowed turf that is Hammersmith Hospital. This began with an early start at 4.45am. I know, a clock should only see this once a day. Teeth were brushed, the shower was jumped in, the beard was conditioned to an inch of its life, as it has gone really dry and coarse of late. It is feeling soft once again, albeit the purple has faded somewhat. I'll probably colour it again, but will definitely do so before the Chemo in May. Mostly so the dust pan gets to look good as it is swept up. 

I am now sat on the train thinking about the need to get home in good time later today, to take the prescribed pills and the magic jab juice. I have been doing all this much closer to lunch time anyway, so I have another 6 hours, give or take before it might affect my current time scales.

As far as the side effects go, I do consider myself lucky as I am taking anti sick pills, with no sickness noted. I must say I have only been taking twice a day as opposed to the instructed three times as advised. If I had the slightest inkling of feeling sick, then I would certainly be taking them as instructed. I was told about the joint aches and pains, at the beginning too. Again this gas been kind too, don't get me wrong, if I am out pottering about town, as I was yesterday treating myself to some new jeans and a shirt. (Pandas breed more frequently than I buy new clothes by the way). 

Today I am feeling aches in my left hip, my lower back and my left eye again. I assume the hip and back are from the drugs, as I was informed would be the case, by Naghma, the well informed Nurse at Hammersmith, but the left eye is blind anyway, so as long as is isn't too bad, I'll not worry about it. If it was my good right eye, then it would have my full attention and I'd pop in to hospital about it. 

Peterborough hospital eye clinic have always been pretty good at squeezing me in at short notice when needed. I try not to bother them unless I am getting genuinely worried about my right eye. Either way, all the aches and pains are dealt with using paracetamol.

Well, that was close. The silence on the train woke me up...phew! God knows where I might have ended up.

Once awake, and back on my stumbley clumsy feet, I took the usual walk to the Victoria line down stairs on the far side of Kings Cross station, then get off at Oxford Circus, to get on the Central line, looking for White City. From there I get on either the No 72, or the 272 bus towards Hammersmith Hospital. All was so very smooth today in my getting here. I will say though, that I really do need to get some paracetamol. My lower back doesn't half ache. Maybe a combination of the walking a fair bit over the last few days, and my being 4 days in to the stem cell generation, and the achy bones are to be expected.

From speaking to the Nursing staff here, I am now in the prime time for the aches to be really biting down. As the day is slowly moving on, yes, I can feel those aches. Do I sound like I am whinging yet? 

My bloods have been taken by Nurse Harry and they have been sent off, as I sit here wondering where I can get those paracetamol tablets, on my way home.
Ok, so I fell asleep as the bloods were sent off, and was told they'd be ready after lunch, and with the time at 10.30 now, off I trot to central London for some nice food and to kill some time. I do pass a chemist, but meh! It'll be reet. 

I eventually find myself in Selfridges food hall trying to eat ramen broth, but yes my right hand is still rubbish, so I am forced to eat the long stringy noodle goodness with chopsticks using my left hand. Actually I did well, and got away with it. Now back to Hammersmith, by now I am really flagging and my back is aching a lot more than I gave it credit for. It is, every now and then, a quiet groan-worthy amount of ache. I really regret not getting some paracetamol to scoff. 

Eventually I get back to Hammersmith, to be told, all my bloods are exactly where they should be, and to come back on Monday for the big stem cell removal. So I say my thank yous to everyone and make my way home, thinking I knew a sly pocket full of paracetamol wouldn't go a miss right now.

I am on the train thinking, if the aches were anything to worry about, I would have bought some. I do see the aching bones as the Body telling me it is busy generating squillions of big fat juicy stem cells for me. You see, it might be super rubbish at running and tying my shoe laces at the moment, but it can spit out stem cells to order when it needs to. Thank you Body, you ain't that bad after all. Thank you X.

Want more information about multiple sclerosis (MS) or HSCT?

Our helpline is here to listen and offer you all the information and support you need to make your own decisions. Call us free on 0800 783 0518, email info@ms-uk.org, or live web chat with us today.

 

University of Essex host the MS Olympix - and we were invited!

Posted on: April 05 2019

Hi everyone,Photo of the group at the Exergaming MS Olympix

Way back in 2016 MS-UK hosted a team from the School of Sport Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences from the University of Essex here at our headquarters. 

The team were running a trial testing the use of an Xbox game specifically designed to support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Since then, they have been working hard to continue exploring possibilities in this area, and yesterday I had the privilege of being invited to the MS Olympix at the University of Essex.

The day included taking part in three different games that could be played standing up or sitting down. 

Sarah, who was first diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2007, attended the event...

‘After hearing about the day at a Josephs Court social coffee morning, it sounded really interesting. It is really good fun and some of the games – especially the ones that involve lifting my feet up – really helps my balance and coordination. It’s like playing the Wii at home but more fun!’

Sarah added, ‘the system comes from a background of rehabilitation, so I’d love to see it developed so people like me, living with MS, can use it at home’.

A big thank you to the team for inviting me to join in and we will keep everyone posted on future studies in exergaming!

Best wishes,

Laura

Laura May, Communications Manager

Your MS magazine of choice hot off the press!

Posted on: April 03 2019

Issue 114 front cover_1.jpgIssue 114 of New Pathways magazine is out now. In this jam-packed edition, we take a look at the recent changes that could affect those of you who take CBD oil, on page 12. We also ask ourselves “Am I having a relapse?” Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with MS for years, there will come a time when you will ask yourself this question, to find out more turn to page 39.

Page 21 offers some helpful advice to those who have found themselves caring for a friend or loved one and don’t know where to start when it comes to finding support.

Louise Willis MS-UK Counsellor talks about managing fatigue and how spoon theory can help you manage and explain it to others on page 28.

MSer and feature writer Ian Cook investigates if magnets can help multiple sclerosis in Cook’s Report Revisited on page 19.

Mary Wilson, #5 Para-Badminton player in the world, reveals her hopes of representing Team GB in Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on page 24, and discover how music therapy could help your MS on page 23.

In addition, don’t forget to read all the latest news and real life stories from MSers living life to the full and why not give our tasty free recipe a try!

Enjoy reading!

About New Pathways

New Pathways magazine is a truly community led publication written by people with MS for people with MS. Each issue offers a variety of information on drugs, complementary therapies and symptom management, plus all the latest news and research and your amazing real life stories.

To subscribe, visit www.ms-uk.org/NewPathways, or call 0800 783 0518. Audio, plain text and digital versions of the magazine are available on request, simply call 01206 226500 and let us know your requirements.

Gogglebox’s Scott McCormick goes purple for MS-UK

Posted on: April 02 2019

Purple beard.JPGThose of you who have been following Scott’s story will know that he is letting MS-UK follow his HSCT (Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) journey to treat his multiple sclerosis (MS). Scott aims to raise awareness of MS and this treatment option, and will be vlogging throughout his treatment giving the MS community a unique insight into what HSCT involves.

Scott was diagnosed with MS 13 years ago and until recently he had lived relatively unaffected by his condition, pursuing his career as an aircraft engineer. When his condition became more active and having tried some of the common MS drugs options, which came with awful side effects, he sought a different approach.

It was his wife Georgia who found and researched HSCT treatment and having considered his options Scott decided that the treatment is the right choice for him.

HSCT is an intense chemotherapy treatment for MS. It aims to wipe out the body’s current faulty immune system and then grow a new one using the body’s own stem cells, which are found in the blood. Although this method cannot cure MS or repair the damage it has already caused, it has been found to halt progression of the condition in a number of people. However, it is also important to note that it does not work for everyone and there is no conclusive evidence to suggest how long it may halt progression for.  

Scott knows that the treatment isn’t without risks, but says: “This was a split second decision for me. I am 45 and my boys have seen me work hard to provide for them. When I get home I am tired, I can be irritable.

“It is true that there is a 1 in 50 mortality rate, but if you flip that on its head it is also like being presented with a 98% survival rate. The alternative is a clear and distinct 100% rate of still having MS, and it devouring me. There is no light at the end of that endless tunnel, where you don't know where, or when you get off. All you know is you still have MS and it will not let you go.”

Having met with the team in charge of his upcoming treatment, Scott was informed that it is highly likely that he will lose his hair, including his impressive beard which he is very well known for. So to celebrate his bearded efforts, his upcoming treatment and show his support for MS-UK, he had dyed his beard MS-UK purple!

Want more information about HSCT?

Our helpline is here to listen and offer you all the information and support you need to make your own decisions. Call us free on 0800 783 0518, email info@ms-uk.org, or live web chat with us today.

5 ways smoking can impact multiple sclerosis

Posted on: March 13 2019

 

Stop smoking image (low res).pngToday is National Non-Smoking Day. Have you ever wondered how smoking can affect multiple sclerosis (MS)? Do you need help quitting? Read on...

 

1          Developing MS

Research has shown that the risk of developing MS is three times greater in male smokers compared to male non-smokers, and for women the risk is one and a half times greater. It is thought that smoking may damage the cells which line blood vessels and these damaged cells cause the vessels to leak, allowing the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke to damage the brain.

 

2          Disability progression

In a study researchers found current or former smokers with relapsing remitting MS were three times more likely to develop secondary progressive MS, another phase of MS marked by a steady increase in MS symptoms and disability, compared to non- or past smokers. However, quitting smoking is something that has been shown to slow disability progression.

 

3          Passive smoking in childhood

A study revealed that 62% of the people diagnosed with MS had been exposed to parental smoking as children, compared to 45% of people diagnosed with MS, whose parents did not smoke. The research also pointed to a time-related correlation between the increase in risk of developing MS as an adult and the length of time a child had been exposed to passive smoking.

 

4          It can impact treatment

For people taking the disease modifying drug Tysabri (natalizumab), there is evidence that smoking increases the risk of the body developing neutralising antibodies to the therapy, causing the drug to have little or no therapeutic effect. A study revealed the risk for developing neutralising antibodies was over twice as high in smokers, compared to non-smokers.

 

5          Smoking doesn’t relieve stress

Although stress is a well-known MS trigger and it can exacerbate symptoms, smoking does not have therapeutic benefits. Research has shown that people who smoke actually have higher stress levels than those who don’t.

 

Need help quitting?

If you need help quitting smoking visit:

Guest blog: 'I don't know what the future holds, none of us do, but I run and keep as healthy as possible...'

Posted on: March 08 2019

Photo of Jan, MS-UK runnerIn 2017, Jan Clarke Taplin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). In this guest blog, Jan tells us about coming to terms with her diagnosis and why running has given her a new focus in life...

In January 2016 I had a very frightening experience when my eyesight in one eye deteriorated quite quickly to the extent that I wasn't able to continue my work as a dentist. Over the next year and numerous tests I was no further forward and my eye made some recovery. Following a second episode with my other eye in 2017 I had further scans and a lumbar puncture which finally led to the diagnosis of RRMS or relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.  

I started to learn about treatments, being a medic I was sure I would follow the disease modifying therapies (DMTs) or daily injections of immunosuppressants, but I was encouraged to try another approach. My own GP put me in touch with a friend of hers who had been managing his own MS through diet and exercise, Alan Caldwell. Alan was a great inspiration to me and when I first met him he had just successfully completed the Virgin Money London Marathon running for MS-UK. This was exactly what I needed to hear at this time, I was in shock with an MS diagnosis and scared for the future. As we know no one can yet predict the outcome of your MS and indeed, it affects everyone differently, so to know that Alan was doing so well following the Best Bet Diet, an exercise regime and supplements meant I was going to look at all this first.

I embarked on the Best Bet Diet which I thought would be so difficult at first, particularly cutting out all dairy and gluten but I did it and haven’t looked back. My neurology team have also been supportive of my choices which again is encouraging.

During all the uncertainty with my health and before I had received an MS diagnosis I decided to start running. I joined local Five Star Active group based in Auchterarder and puffed and panted my way through 2 minute runs!! I was a complete beginner and whilst an outdoorsy type I had never run before. I remember the elation I felt when eventually running one dark Friday night we realised we had run for 12 minutes non-stop!! 

From there I ran a 5k then a 10k. With news in December 2017 that I may be facing MS I decided to sign up for a Half Marathon as I was terrified if I didn't do it then it may never happen. So in May 2018 a month after my confirmed diagnosis I proudly completed Loch Leven Half in 2 hrs 17 minutes. 

During the rest of 2018 I tried to keep my miles up and my fitness level as I started to come to terms with having this chronic disease. I was learning (and still am) when to push my body, and when to rest, how to fuel and which foods keep me healthy. 

I had dark days and towards the end of 2018 my GP suggested I needed some counselling which I have received both privately and from MS-UK. The services MS-UK provide have been a source of great help for me so I am therefore delighted to be able to raise funds for MS-UK.

I was dubious about entering the Virgin Money London Marathon as I was concerned it may be too much for my MS but I have gone from strength to strength over the last year, I don't know what the future holds, none of us do, but I run and keep as healthy as possible and stay in the moment as much as possible. 

In January several of my running club buddies were starting their training for the London Marathon, we have nine from our club heading south for the run, and I thought if I’m going to do it, it’s now or never. I sent a message to Jenny at MS-UK to find out if there was a chance my waiting list place would come up and after a very excitable phone call, she offered me a place.

If I had a doubt about the marathon it was dispelled that day with my overwhelming excitement about it and also how delighted my friends, family and running buddies were too.

The training is so far on track, we have a wonderful coach who has put a great programme together for me. She knows about my MS and together we monitor it, she insists on two days rest after my long run and I never run consecutive days. Having other running buddies makes it easier to motivate yourself and the MS-UK runners have also been great, we interact in a Facebook group and follow each other on Strava.

I have some fundraising events planned but most of my target has been met from my initial post on Facebook sharing my story and my JustGiving page. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received. Many people did not know what I was going through and the messages I received when I finally told the world gave me a huge boost.

I am excited for London and delighted to be part of Team Purple, see you at the finish!!

Jan x

Would you like to take on a challenge in aid of MS-UK?

Find out all about fundraising and becoming part of #TeamPurple on our website today!

Research shout out: MS patient and carer views needed to inform NHS Wales

Posted on: March 08 2019

The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) are seeking the views of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and carers about new medicines it will consider recommending for use in NHS Wales, such as fingolimod (Gilenya), to treat MS in paediatric patients.

They would like you to share with them what it is like to live with MS or to care for someone who has it, and by contributing you will provide invaluable information about patient and carer needs. 

In addition, they will be asking clinical experts to give their views and the medical facts. All of this information combined will give a really good insight into the real effects MS has on patients and carers and help inform the drug approval process. You are not expected to have all the answers, but anything you can share will be incredibly helpful.

If you would like to share your experience download the questionnaire to complete and send it to the address below by the 18 March 2019:

All Wales Therapeutics & Toxicology Centre

Academic Centre

University Hospital Llandough

Penlan Road, Llandough

Vale of Glamorgan

CF64 2XX

Alternatively you can fill out the questionnaire here. All information shared with AWMSG will be kept confidential. 

AWMSG is meeting on 15 May 2019. At the meeting the group’s lay member will summarise all comments from patients and carers, and patient organisations. Only AWTTC and committee members will read the completed questionnaires.

If you would like more information, or help with completing the questionnaire, please call 02920 716900 or email AWTTC@wales.nhs.uk.

Gogglebox’s Scott McCormick accepted for HSCT treatment in London

Posted on: March 06 2019

You may recognise Scott’s face, he is in fact the dad to the McCormick family on Channel 4’s popular series Gogglebox...

What you might not know is that Scott has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 13 years and after recently seeing a worsening in his condition applied and has been accepted for Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) treatment in London.

Scott has had a coveted career as an aircraft engineer in the Royal Air Force and was diagnosed with MS in 2006. With an MRI scan his neurologist identified that he has significant lesions to confirm he has MS.

He tried the disease modifying therapies approach and gave beta interferons a try, but they didn’t agree with him. So he decided to take the no-drug route for 13 years before his MS became more active in recent years.

Like many people’s HSCT stories, Scott didn’t know anything about the treatment until his wife found information online. He has since been accepted for HSCT treatment in London and wants to raise awareness and share his experience exclusively with MS-UK and its followers. This is the first of a number of vlogs Scott will be sharing with us, so please do follow his journey with us.

Scott thought it was important to express that he is no way an expert and MS affects everyone differently, but hopes that sharing his story will give everyone an idea of what’s involved in the process and what to expect. Please do share your thoughts and comments with Scott via our social media pages and his own @goggle_beard.

Want more information about HSCT?

Our helpline is here to listen and offer you all the information and support you need to make your own decisions. Call us free on 0800 783 0518, email info@ms-uk.org, or live web chat with us today.

Caution: Please be aware that some of the language used in this video may cause offence. 

Top 5 tips to ensure you’re buying quality CBD products

Posted on: February 12 2019

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In our latest guest blog Henry Vicenty, CEO of cannabidiol (CBD) oil producer Endoca, walks us through his top 5 tips to buying quality CBD products for managing your multiple sclerosis (MS).

 

1. Does the company have publically accessible, easy to understand lab reports?

Companies such as Endoca selling quality products will be proud of their lab reports, and will want their customers and the general public to have easy access to information regarding what is in their products. Do a quick search of the company website, or reach out to their customer services team who should be able to point you in the right direction. You want to see cannabinoids listed, as well as terpenes and evidence of absent chemicals and pesticides. 

2. Are the products organic and whole plant?

If the products are certified organic, you will see the logo on the website. Some companies will grow organically but may not have a certification, which isn’t ideal but even without certification, a quick glance over their lab reports should show the testing for, and subsequently negative levels of a variety of chemicals or toxins. 

Research and anecdotal reports support the claim that whole plant CBD extracts are more therapeutically potent than isolated CBD extracts alone. Make sure the lab reports of your products show terpene and other trace cannabinoid levels, otherwise you may be buying an isolated CBD product, which means the company is using only the CBD molecule in a carrier oil and no other beneficial plant molecules. 

3. Is the CBD amount of the product clearly labelled and verifiable?

As the industry is yet to be standardised, bottle sizes and CBD levels are all dependant on the company, so it’s hard to truly know if the product you’re using is good value for money. Endoca have created this CBD calculator, which helps you work out the monetary amount per milligram of CBD, which is important when trying to decide between products. 

4. Are there clear quality standards in place? 

Without clear quality standards there is no guarantee of safety in the product you are purchasing so make sure you ask the company for proof of the quality standards they have in place. Ask if the products are Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified (when products are of pharmaceutical quality) and for any other certifications they hold that show their product is safe for consumption.

5. Is their website content clear and informative and do they have many online reviews?

As CBD is a new industry for many people, there is an abundance of misinformation online, including information that you can find on many CBD company websites. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to buy CBD in bulk and rebrand it as your own, so if the company you’re buying from provides limited information, or is not clear in giving you all the tools you need to make an informed decision or purchase, steer clear. Also, finding online sources of product reviews is vital to hearing about the experiences of others using the same products.

You can read more about cannabis in our Cannabis and MS Choices leaflet online.

Read the Cannabis and MS Choices Leaflet online

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