Tom Ledson leads an optimistic life. For Men’s Health Week, he shares what he does to boost his own wellbeing
I have always been positive and optimistic even before my multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis.
A particular hobby of mine is playing the ukulele. I taught myself to play at the age of 11 when I bought a ukulele from a school friend. I learned three basic chords and a few songs. I played for about six months and then stopped for no particular reason other than that I was young and that's what young kids do, or don't do. I didn't touch the ukulele again for over 40 years. My playing resumed just before I got MS. I found I had forgotten very little over those 40-plus years.
I have lots to keep me active. By doing things, I remain positive all the time. I even see my MS condition as a positive thing, using it as an example to help others.
I also teach beginners how to play. I have set up many ukulele groups, and must by now have of taught at least 200 people. The ukulele is an ideal instrument for those with MS. It is small, easy to learn and very versatile, too. It is also very cheap to buy. In fact, you can buy one for around £20. You can play all kinds of music – pop, folk, children’s nursery rhymes, sing-a-long songs, and so on. With just three basic chords it is possible to play over 100 songs including rock ’n’ roll. It is a pleasant instrument that becomes a sort of a friend – a real antidote to loneliness.
Since my diagnosis, I have taken active participation in my lifestyle, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and aquatherapy. I am a member of the neurotherapy centre at Chester. Since the pandemic began, I am actively engaged in home exercise, which includes walking with my stick, Nordic walking poles or a rollater, my personal walking machine, online exercises, and some physiotherapy leg exercise I got from the hospital physio. I also do regular exercises on Zoom with neurotherapy centre staff. I would recommend as much physical exercise as possible. You just need to keep moving. It's a case of use it or lose it.
I would recommend that people take their opportunities as they arise and see where life takes them. I would advise them to do things rather than try and do things, just do rather than try. They may not do well at first, (in fact they probably won't) but their persistence will pay off and they will get better in the end. I am quite sure of that. If they just try, then they give up too easily. Do things, and you'll get there. Keep learning. There is always new stuff to learn. Life is but a short journey. Enjoy your ramblings and where they take you.
I have learned to live with MS. Strange as it seems, I sometimes see it as a sort of bonus. I have made many contacts and met lots of interesting people, many with MS. I love helping people, so if anyone reading this is interested in learning the uke, writing poetry, or songs, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org – I will be happy to get you started, or just for the chat. You won't be disappointed, I promise.