Ians Community Champion experience

Ian’s Community Champion experience – Volunteers week 2024

Ian Rudge shares his MS story and why volunteering has improved his life

My name is Ian and I’m a 66-year-old with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) and I’m a Community Champion.

My story began in August 2020, when, after waiting for a consultation to find out what was wrong with me (I knew something was wrong but due to Covid, getting an appointment was near impossible) I decided to go private and received a diagnosis within weeks. I’d been waiting for two years before that.

As I left the consultant, I sat in my car and made myself a promise, that I would fight this disease, and live life and not be ruled by MS.

As a sufferer, I ensure every day is filled with an activity as I believe that is the best way to fight the fatigue which affects everyone with MS. I volunteer at a Sue Ryder charity shop and get great satisfaction from the social interaction of working two to three hours at a time, three times a week.

I attend reformer Pilates, and a weekly gym session organised for people with respiratory problems. I am an active member of my local gym, visiting at least three times a week. I’m fortunate to have an oxygen therapy centre, which helps my fatigue by oxygenating my blood. All the above are there to keep me mobile, so to keep my brain in working order I attend my local college and have returned to maths, which I loved at school.

When I was asked about being a Community Champion, I jumped at it, as it was another thing to help fill my time.

Last year I did a tandem skydive along with my son, raising almost £2,000 for MS-UK. I thought being a Community Champion cannot be anywhere as dangerous as parachuting strapped to an expert falling from 15,000ft (approximately three miles up), free-falling at a speed of 120 mph.

Having been a Community Champion since December 2023, I have tried to get collection boxes at places I regularly visit. It can be a bit daunting, but the venue can either say yes or no. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time but the buzz you get when someone agrees to have a collection box is infectious.

My main reason for volunteering is to raise the profile of MS in the community, as there are more people living with it than you’d think. Whenever I bump into new sufferers, I tell them my story and stress the importance of keeping active, as it’s so easy to shut yourself away and just become a vegetable spending all day watching TV.

I would recommend being a volunteer for any organisation that helps with all manner of debilitating diseases, as the feelgood factor you get is amazing – in fact my social life has increased tremendously and can’t walk down the street without bumping into someone I’ve only got to know since being diagnosed with MS.