It was a beautiful day at the Colchester Half Marathon 2019 (24 March), the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky!
MS-UK had over 60 runners pounding the streets of Colchester, including an amazing duo who both wore and ran in a tyre!
Clare Thompson and her running buddy Dave, who ran the race while carrying car tyres, really went to town on decorating their accessories in aid of MS-UK. Clare said, ‘Some years ago my wonderful sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then all the family have been so grateful to the work MS-UK do and we have done everything we can to help raise money for this positive and hugely supportive charity’.
It was also great to see some of our Virgin Money London Marathon runners using the event as a training session with just five weeks to go! So far #TeamPurple have raised £4,000 collectively – Go #TeamPurple!
Thank you to our 130 wonderful volunteers! These types of events just cannot happen without your commitment. You all pitched in to help and support MS-UK in any way you could. You lined the course acting as event stewards and keeping the runners safe; handed out water, bananas, medals and goody bags; directed traffic and helped people park their cars, and our volunteer photographers took some amazing shots of everyone enjoying the day. We just can’t thank you enough.
See the amazing photos from this event in our Facebook photo album today!
MS-UK is here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), to empower them to live healthier and happier lives by improving the understanding of MS and providing support where it is needed most.
Volunteers are paramount in our success at any event MS-UK attends. If you’ve been inspired and you would like to get involved and offer your help, please get in touch with Jenny on 01206 226500.
Today we have launched a new video all about our plans for the next three years. At MS-UK, we want to be truly community-led and we have developed our next strategy with this in mind.
Way back in February 2018 the whole charity agreed that we wanted to involve people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) in a meaningful way. We were really keen to make sure we didn't just tick boxes, we wanted people affected by MS to share their insights and experiences with us and help us develop a way forward that makes a difference where it's needed most.
We asked the MS community 'what is the biggest difference we could make for you today?' And you answered...through attending focus groups, joining our Virtual Insight Panel, completing surveys and sending emails, you let us know what matters to you.
So, what are our priorities for the next three years? Watch or listen to our film today to find out!
You can also read our Strategic Plan for more information.
I am very excited about planning for a healthier and happier future, a future where we can improve understanding of MS and provide the support that is needed most. Thank you so much for all of your feedback over the past year, you have made this possible,
Mandy Bunn climbed Kilimanjaro and raised a huge amount of money for MS-UK
I decided I wanted to do something big for my 50th birthday in January 2019. I wanted to see how far I could push myself both mentally and physically whilst raising money for a great cause. My partner, who has multiple sclerosis, uses MS-UK’s wellness centre Josephs Court in Essex regularly. I booked to climb Mount Kilimanjaro through Discovery Adventure. Located in Tanzania and standing at 5,895 meters above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. It has always been on my bucket list and my father inspired me to do it!
The climb would take four and a half days, plus one and a half days to descent. The steep unpredictable terrain coupled with the altitude would certainly be the challenge I was looking for and very much a change from my day job. After roping in my friend Sue to join me I began fundraising for MS-UK. It is a national charity that is close to my heart and does great work. It is dedicated to empowering people with multiple sclerosis to make the most of today, and live life to the full.
After flying from Heathrow to Nairobi and then catching an internal flight to Kilimanjaro airport, we finally arrived at our hotel ready for the start of our adventure. After meeting with the commander Helen from Discover Adventure and the other group members we set off from Machame Gate at 10am, which is already at an elevation of 1,800 metres.
At this point we were all full of enthusiasm for the next seven hours of walking which lay ahead. We set off through the rainforest, the terrain was incredibly steep and therefore we had to go very slowly.
We carried four litres of water each and every day which we were advised to drink throughout the day in order to prevent altitude sickness – as you can imagine, there were toilet breaks aplenty! With an elevation of 2,835 metres, we arrived at Machame Camp at 5pm for some hot food and an early night.
The next day we were woken at 5.30am, the temperature had dropped to -5 degrees and I found myself trying to get dressed in my sleeping bag!
We started walking and spent six hours walking up boulders – the rainforest was beginning to end, the trees had disappeared and we started to walk on a path through ferns before we arrived above the clouds at Shira Cave Camp – with an elevation of 3,750 meters above sea level.
The porters were absolute troopers in carrying our kit along with their own and endeavoured to keep our spirits high by singing local songs. Unfortunately, the first member of our group dropped out due to altitude sickness. We enjoyed another cooked meal and another early night.
We were woken up at 5.30am again after a disturbed night’s sleep – although I was sleeping, the sleep quality wasn’t good.
Sue put the group through the usual morning warm up session which was entertainment in itself, more so for the locals!
Today was going to be a big test on altitude – we were climbing up as high as 4,600 metres above sea level to Lava Tour before dropping down to 3,900 meters to sleep. The reason we climb high and sleep low is purely to adapt the change in oxygen levels.
The terrain was “Mars-like”, very rocky and unsteady under foot. I really enjoyed that day and was still feeling good, however some of the group were showing the first signs of altitude sickness and really struggling.
After being woken up at the unearthly hour of 4.45am we started off by climbing the Barraco Wall, which was huge. It took two hours to climb up it before spending the rest of the day walking up and down hills in very hot weather. We had lunch at 10.30am and arrived at Base Camp at 4pm which stands at 4,900 meters above sea level. Unfortunately that day, two other team members left the trip, one pulled out, but the other was advised by the doctor he couldn’t continue. He had high-altitude pulmonary edema which is a life-threatening condition where fluid was on his lungs, so to continue the trip would have been deadly.
After six hours of terrible sleep, we were woken at 11pm to start the summit. I was given porridge (which is more like gruel). Just as we were about to go, another team member dropped out. Head torches on we started walking in absolute darkness, uphill and very slowly.
During the seven-hour uphill walk, people were being very sick, suffering from dizziness and becoming delusional, luckily for me, the only thing that remained was the slight upset stomach which I had on day two. The lack of air was hard, and everything became a big effort and I was really struggling with the cold.
We arrived at Stella Point just as the sun rose, but we still had 45 minutes to get to Uhuru Peak which at the summit stands 5,985 metres above sea level. As we walked to the peak, we were surrounded by other zombie-like walkers – some were being carried either to the peak or back down the mountain, and people were still vomiting, but I made it!
The overall relief of making it to Uhuru Peak gave me a second wind and after some photographs, I quickly got myself back down to base camp. The downhill walk was a killer on the feet. When we got back to basecamp, we had a quick lunchbreak and then another two hour walk to Millennium Camp (just because we hadn’t walked enough that day!) for a well-deserved sleep.
I was absolutely exhausted to the point I couldn’t unzip my bag to get my sleeping bag out. Everything seemed to require so much energy, which I just didn’t have. I just fell in the tent!
More force feeding and the final Kilimanjaro sing song and dance with the 50 strong crew who had supported and looked after us all the way. It was so infectious we were all singing and dancing in our exhausted state, it so lifted the mood.
Overall, my trip was varied with huge ups and downs and lots of laughter and camaraderie. This is undoubtedly up there with my best and most rewarding challenges. I’ll always a grateful to be able to have had the experience.
So thanks Pops for planting the seed!
What’s next you might ask? Well watch this space…
Always dream big and chase those goals because you never know when you will not have the luxury to be able to do it again.
I am extremely grateful for my family’s support and the generosity of everyone who has donated. There is still time to sponsor me and if you would like to, please click here.
MS-UK fundraiser of month Guy Cooper fights back against his own MS by fundraising for others affected by MS
In May 2011, I was just three weeks into a new job. One afternoon, I suddenly lost vision in my left eye. After a couple of days, of my vision getting worse, I went to my GP. He immediately referred me to the Royal Gwent Hospital, Wales. After nine months of tests and examinations I was sent for an MRI scan.
When the results came in, I was informed that I was being transferred to my local neurology team. At my first appointment with neurology, I was shown my MRI Scan and told I had have multiple sclerosis (MS).
My MS has progressed slowly, but I have had some minor relapses and struggled with fatigue. I've also had a slow, but increasing loss of sensation in my left leg and arm.
To combat the fatigue I took up cross-country walking because I am surrounded by mountains where I live in Wales and it occurred to me I had never explored most of them - I wanted to put that right. I spent many happy hours in the areas overlooking Caerphilly and Cardiff, learning about the local history.
In the summer 2018, I suffered my worse relapse to date, which lasted eight weeks and took even longer to recover from. It hit me hard and really knocked my confidence. For the first time since I had been diagnosed I felt like I was losing the fight.
I decided to fight back from the relapse and I needed something to work towards. So I set myself the challenge to attempt my most ambitious hike to date. After receiving encouragement and support from my friends when I mentioned trying to do something, I then shared my plans with my work colleague Stina. I was braced to be told I was being stupid, but not only did she back me, she offered to help me plan the route and train for the attempt. My line manager Tim, who is also a keen walker, heard about the idea and also offered to help.
A few days after Christmas 2018, I was doing a Google search for MS support when I stumbled across the MS-UK website. I was impressed by how friendly it seemed, with natural photos and names of real people there to help. I liked the services they were offering on their website and decided I wanted this charity to benefit from my adventure, so I set up a JustGiving page. I spoke with the fundraising team because I wanted to make sure the money I raised would go towards sustaining the services that MS-UK provides for people with MS. I realise that not everyone is as fortunate as me. My symptoms haven't been life changing, I've had excellent medical support from my GP and MS team at The Royal Gwent, and I have an amazing group of family and friends who have stood by me.
So, on 16 March 2019 at around 8am, I will be setting off with support from Tim and Stina, to cover Bedwas, Machen, Rudry and Caerphilly Mountains in one day. The route will be just over 14.5 miles and we hope to complete it in under eight hours – wish me luck!
If you are inspired by Guy’s story and would like to support his fundraising effort, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guy-cooper2 to donate. Thank you!
If you’ve been inspired to take on your own challenge, contact Lucy on 01206 226500, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is National Non-Smoking Day. Have you ever wondered how smoking can affect multiple sclerosis (MS)? Do you need help quitting? Read on...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you need help quitting smoking visit:
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!!
Find out all about fundraising and becoming part of #TeamPurple on our website today!
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
University Hospital Llandough
Penlan Road, Llandough
Vale of Glamorgan
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.
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.
Caution: Please be aware that some of the language used in this video may cause offence.
2016 and 2017 was a momentous time for supermarkets here in the UK; ASDA, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons announced they had removed the stigma of people with invisible illnesses from being called out for looking ‘normal’ when using their stores.
In an act of moving with the times, when the big five supermarkets specifically addressed the issue of hidden disabilities by displaying ‘not every disability is visible’ signs in their stores, I was greatly heartened to hear about this act of awareness.
And not a moment too soon. After all, from a personal perspective having to validate my MS to complete strangers has at times been humiliating, particularly whenever I’ve found a disabled parking space.
While not exactly a burning bush moment, by raising an awareness on their premises it was a positive step against discrimination. But then again, was it really something to celebrate or was it nothing more than a misguided publicity stunt?
Despite the desperate need for a parking space hidden disability awareness sign, shamefully I later discovered it was only Sainsburys who have displayed it beneath the wheelchair logo in their parking bays. As for the others, their nod towards helping people only extends as far as their accessible toilets.
Without wishing to sound ungrateful I’m at a loss to understand why both needs were not given equal consideration but then again, I have nothing to be grateful for. None of us do. Yet given all the free PR and advertising, the cynic in me questions what kind of tokenism was deemed more acceptable by supermarket focus groups.
If ASDA, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons can put up signs in their store toilets raising awareness of 'hidden disabilities' that doesn’t extend to parking, they clearly have no idea what going shopping is like for some with MS, faced with fear of confrontation outside on the superstore concourse.
Never more has supermarket lip service been so opportunist. They should be shamed, not celebrated, for their penny-pinching attempt for basking in gold-plated publicity. I can only assume they chose to do this because of cost. And yet all is not lost. Redemption is at their fingertips.
On Amazon, it’s possible to buy ‘not all disabilities are visible stickers’ to give away free to customers. The cost to them is less than £2 notwithstanding discount for a bulk order.
Every little helps, as they say.
If you would like any information about accessibility or parking, please email our helpline with your questions.
I am proud to let you know we have recently been accredited with the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, an award which recognises that we strive to make MS-UK a great place to work.
Completing the Workplace Wellbeing Charter is about more than just ticking boxes. It is making a real commitment to the health and wellbeing of our employees and the accreditation standard that is built on best practice, the latest research and business sense. As a national health charity, wellbeing is really important to us on so many levels and that includes the wellbeing of our staff and volunteers, so it means a lot to us to achieve this.
The Workplace Wellbeing Charter have made a short film about MS-UK, which you can now watch on our YouTube channel or below.
Thank you to all the MS-UK staff who make working here such a positive experience!
On Valentine’s Day, when love is all around us, Glen and David reflect on the strength of love in the face of multiple sclerosis (MS) in this guest blog. They tell us why a dear friend’s diagnosis of MS led them to take on the mighty marathon challenge...
After years trying to get a place for the Virgin Monday London Marathon, we have both secured a place to run the race on Sunday 28 April 2019, and we could not be more excited!
Our training is now underway and we have also joined the Prestwich Athletics Club to help us with our training. This year we are extremely proud to be supporting MS-UK who provide support to those awaiting a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis or for those already living with it. A charity like this is something that is very close to our hearts.
So why have we chosen this charity?
We moved onto our street in 2003 after taking a leap of faith in buying a new house in an area that we didn’t really know much about. Then, in 2004, a lovely young couple named Chris and Claire bought and moved into the house directly opposite to ours and right next door to our already great friends Helen and Jamie. We were all of similar ages and starting out with our grown up futures ahead of us. It wasn’t very long until we all struck up a great friendship and we started socialising together with dinner parties, drinks and silly karaoke discos!
We had formed an amazing triangle of trust between each couple and began making some truly brilliant memories. We were very lucky to have such fantastic neighbours that we could now call true friends. All of our futures were bright.
Soon after moving in, Chris and Claire got married. They had a beautiful wedding ceremony and celebrations in France. It was their perfect day and the start of their married bliss. Unfortunately, two weeks later their world was turned upside down and their future together took an unexpected turn after Claire was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. For a couple who were just starting out on their planned journey, their future was having to be rewritten.
Fast forward to 2019, and we can now look back and share what their journey has been so far…and how MS has affected Claire, Chris, their families and us as friends.
Anyone who is diagnosed with MS will soon learn that no two journeys are the same. The body is a wondrous thing, but how MS takes over it, is different for everyone. We had never had anyone close to us have MS, so this was all new to us all.
The text books say that MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. How was this diagnosis of Claire’s going to manifest itself? We have now seen first-hand that this disease can be debilitating. A bright, fit and healthy young lady with a fantastic future as a school teacher slowly had the carpet pulled from under her feet by the effects of MS taking over her body. The past 10 years have been a rollercoaster for Claire and Chris and everyone around them.
No matter how much fight you put up, the fatigue and progressive failing limbs can bring the strongest of people down. With that comes the black depressive days when you realise that your independence is ebbing away, you feel isolated and being a proud person is a blocker on accepting the support you may eventually need.
We have witnessed Claire’s battle with MS and her battle with herself. The ups and downs, highs and lows all followed. The pain, tiredness, frustration, sadness and steely determination not to be beaten. The intense pressure on both Claire and
Chris would have been a significant test on any relationship. Both have had to adapt to a life that neither of them planned for or ever wanted. Their love and strength for each other has been incredible.
Huge decisions had to be made on what their new future could be. Family and friends also had to adapt their lives to be able to offer love and support when needed and to take into account Claire’s capabilities, ensuring she was not being excluded. To watch your wife, daughter, sister or friend battle with something that you cannot physically help them with is cruel. How do you react? What can you ask or say? When is it appropriate to step in? No-one can teach you these things but you have to stay strong for that person and just wait until they are ready to let you in. Even in writing this piece we sought approval from Claire as she is still a very private person and contains her situation within those people very close to her.
Eventually realising their limits, Claire and Chris had to find another single level house where her mobility was not as exasperated. MS was preventing Claire to live a normal life by taking away her ability to be fully mobile. It was a very sad day for us all when they left their home opposite us to move into a house they had to choose because of Claire’s condition. Fortunately, they didn’t have to go too far, so we have maintained our fantastic friendships and memory making which we all do with joy!
Through receiving fantastic support from MS specialists and from the care services, Claire and Chris are now living much happier within the confines of what MS has done to her mobility. They have received some amazing treatment, adapted their home, lifestyle and accepted care that has been put in place to support them both. Whilst Claire is physically restricted, she is now embracing her life and extracting everything she possibly can with a beautiful smile on her face. Our triangle of trust is now stronger than ever, and the support network has expanded, with even more very special friends joining the fundraising team. Go #TeamPurple!
Since the times Claire was first diagnosed, there has been huge progress made on the support people can get from having an early diagnosis, improved medications and treatments and more research being done.
This is where MS-UK come into their own. The work they do is helping many people in the same situation as Claire and Chris. It is an amazing charity which does great things.
We are now looking to support them to raise awareness and make a difference to the amazing work that they do via our fundraising. We have a £2,000 target and need your help to reach it!
Many thanks for your support!
Glen & David xx
This month, our fundraising star is Grace Catchpole who took to the stage with her university sketch group in aid of MS-UK to honour the memory of her mother (pictured above). Here's her story of show night and a special delivery that brought her to tears...
In September 2018 I lost my mother to multiple sclerosis (MS). She was first diagnosed over 20 years ago and throughout that time was an inspiration to many people. I know it’s a cliché, but I don’t think it is possible to fight harder or continue to find the joy in life in the way she did. She taught me to always make the most out of everything I did and to never give up, no matter what the obstacles, and to always keep a sense of humour about everything.
In light of this I knew I wanted to do something to support those with MS. Great sporting feats were out of the question for me, as merely the thought of doing a marathon or triathlon makes me feel ill, and I would be the first to admit I am not in the shape to even think about attempting one. Then the idea hit me. I’d recently been at a university society training day where they’d spoken to us about the idea of adopting a charity for the year. Although I am not in charge of my university drama society, I am running the sketch group. I spoke to my second in command, the president of the society, and finally the rest of the sketch group and was given the green light: our little medical school sketch group was adopting MS-UK as our charity for the year.
My family’s connection with MS-UK goes back many years. My dad ran the London Marathon for MSRC and MS-UK numerous times, something I have always been in awe of. So, when I decided that I wanted to raise money for an MS charity, MS-UK was the first place I looked to.
From the moment I decided to make contact I knew I’d made the right decision. I was put in touch with Lucy who phoned me and we had a long chat about what I wanted to do, and why I had chosen the charity and the cause. Knowing that I had such wonderful support from the charity helped no end throughout the organisation process, and the good luck wishes via email and the Facebook page gave me and the sketch group wonderful boosts going into our first show.
To anyone looking to fundraise for MS-UK I would recommend getting in touch with their fundraising team as soon as you can! The extra support can work wonders and it was through that initial chat with Lucy that I came up with the idea to have all of our front of house team in MS-UK t-shirts for the show, helping promote what we were raising money for!
The first chance for our group to raise money for MS-UK came with our annual sketch show in December. This is a one-night only show aimed at other students from the medical school and has been a huge success in past years, although this is the first time it has been performed for charity. The first thing that needed to be done was to look at the numbers – how much of the proceeds from the show could we afford to give to charity and still be able to fund our activity for the rest of the year? We decided to charge £1 extra for tickets which would go to MS-UK and then fit as many collection buckets into the venue as possible and rely on the generosity of medical students.
When it came to organise the event, I was at a distinct advantage. I was running a well-established event that has been running for five years, so already knew I had an audience that was willing to turn up, but the challenge was how to get them to put money in buckets. The answer came from my genius flatmate, who runs front of house for our shows. We would offer face-painting to anyone who put some money in – this tactic meant we almost doubled the money we made from ticket sales, and meant in addition we had a fabulous looking audience!
I would also like to use this space to thank the incredible alumni of our little group. On the day of the show I received an envelope, which arrived by special delivery, with strict instructions not open it until 6pm that day. At 6pm, just after doing the pre-show thankyous to my wonderful team, I opened it to discover a wonderful letter and £70 donation to MS-UK from some of our alumni, triggering unashamed tearfulness from me and an outpouring of love from the rest of the cast. After the show was over I have also been contacted by other alumni asking where they can donate money in a show of love and support I find myself overwhelmed by.
When I was first contacted by Lucy about being fundraiser of the month she spoke about the show and also about money that had been raised in my mum’s name from other areas. Both my uncle putting together a carol singing group which raised money around Oxford and the university hockey and football clubs running a student union event for MS-UK (both clubs are headed up by friends of my sister). I cannot take credit for these fundraising efforts but there is one common denominator across them all. My mother.
It was very flattering to be nominated as fundraiser of the month, however I don’t know if this recognition truly belongs to me. The way I see it all this fundraising was caused by one amazing woman who inspired not just me, but also those around her, to want to change something and want to improve the lives of others with the MS.
That this is one of the legacies she left behind is nothing more than any of us who knew her expected, you only have to look to the impressive amounts that were donated in her name when she died in September to see just how much she touched the lives of others. I am truly proud to have had her as my mother and feel blessed to have had her in my life. I like to think she would also be proud of me for showing I have inherited just a little bit of her organisational skills in putting together a charity event, although I did need a fantastic team behind me to help me pull it off, to all of whom I offer all my thanks. MS-UK is a fantastic charity supporting people affected by a truly challenging condition and I feel honoured that I was able to support this cause even though my contribution was small. I think what my story shows is that the memory, love and respect for one amazing person can make such a difference, and I will be forever grateful that my mother was one of those people.
The support of people like Grace mean we can continue our work being here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis. Call Lucy on 01206 226500 or email Lucy today to order a free fundraising welcome pack and start your journey!
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.
My name is John Williams and I’ve been asked to write a blog because of the way I’m trying to raise a little money for MS-UK. I’ve never done anything like this before so I’ll apologise in advance if I waffle on too much.
First, a little about me.
I’m a lifelong strength athlete who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the summer of 2018.
I’ve trained for and competed in strength sports for most of my life - 45 years this year (I’m 55 at the moment). My first Olympic Lifting (the type of weightlifting they have at the Olympics) competition was in November 1974 and I went on to be a National Champion by the age of 16.
At the end of 1979 I competed in my first powerlifting competition, which is much more reliant on brute strength. Powerlifting is the squat, bench press and deadlift. A change is as good as rest so I had a go - the next Olympics in 1984 seemed so far away. I had every intention of going back to weightlifting.
I went on to be a multi British, European and World Champion across four weight classes and broke several World Records in the World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation. My last World title was in Russia in 2003, after which my body needed a rest but my need for endorphins runs deep so I switched back to weightlifting instead.
In 2004 I was British Masters (over 40) champion. I followed this up with a third place at the Welsh Open and first in the Welsh Masters. The next few years saw a number of operations, some of which were to repair the damage caused by years of long heavy training sessions and one or two to upgrade internal fixation I’d had put in years before following a motorcycle accident.
I’ve always been the sort of person who loves a challenge, even more so if someone has told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, so in 2009 I started the long road to the 2013 Masters Games. However, it was not to be and in 2012 I completely ruptured my right biceps at the shoulder and either ruptured or partially ruptured all four parts of my right rotator cuff (muscles in the shoulder). As far as recovery was concerned it was by far the most difficult injury/operation I’d had.
By the summer of 2014 I was back on the powerlifting platform representing Wales in the Four Nations Championships. My first competitive outing in a long time and I managed to break three British Masters Records, one of which had stood since 2000. During this time I even entered a strongman contest, a bucket list thing. I knew I had no chance of winning, the next oldest person was just over half my age but I managed to place top 3 in one event and actually won another. I was pleased I didn’t actually come last overall.
It was at this time that I began to notice it was taking longer to recover from workouts and my muscles ached far more than they should have. At first I put this down to 40 odd years of heavy training. I was still competing once, maybe twice a year and broke all the Welsh Masters Records in two weight classes and as I write I hold several open records across two weight classes as well.
My ability to train hard and recover was slowly but surely decreasing and by the beginning of 2018 I seemed to be constantly sore and was sustaining one injury after another – time for a visit to the doctors and a string of visits to the hospital.
Once I got my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis it was a bit of a relief to be honest. It could have been something far worse and at least I could still go to the gym, albeit training very differently.
I’ve always tried to put something back into the sport I’ve enjoyed for so many years, promoting contests, refereeing, coaching and I currently edit the website for the Welsh Strength Association so once I’d settled into a training routine my thoughts turned to trying to use what I could do to raise a little money for MS and the only thing I could think of was lifting weights.
So, that brings us to what I’m doing. Phase one of my goal is to total 600kg over the three lifts (powerlifting) and to set Welsh Masters Records in each lift at the Welsh Cup on 03 March 2019. At the time of writing this I’m on course to it but as you can imagine it will depend on having enough good days to make progress, I am incredibly stubborn and driven though!
I picked MS UK because it offers support and is hands on in its approach to helping - you can see where the money goes!
I’ve opened a donation page for MS-UK on Facebook.
Phase two of my goal will be more difficult – my plan is to return once again to Olympic lifting and compete in the Welsh Masters in November 2019 and hopefully raise a little more money.
If you’ve been inspired by John get in touch with Lucy to order your fundraising welcome pack today! Just email Lucy or call on 01206 226500.
If you feel ready to get going you can set up a Facebook fundraiser today!
In our latest guest blog, MSer Christian Rolfe talks about his new hand-controlled car and tells us what to expect from the assessment.
I've been on the Motability scheme some years now and in April 2018 I was driving an automatic with a hoist for our scooters. Normally when my licence expires I get a letter which I send back and a new licence arrives for 3 years, but this time I received a letter requesting I made an appointment for a medical to determine my fitness to drive.
The appointment was 10-15 minutes or so and I didn't get off my scooter nor was I examined. I was asked a few questions to measure my cognition. After the "physio" I was given 5 years on my licence instead of the normal 3.
Having already gone from a manual to an automatic 3 years ago because my left foot and leg was giving up, now my right leg was feeling icy cold and a bit painful. This started last summer in the boiling heat.
Having had 4 or 5 near misses, my partner and I went on a cruise to New York and back. On the drive home from Southampton, the M20 was shut and the Satnav took me to another road that it didn't recognise. I was forced to go down a very narrow country lane and I crashed the car. I was going too fast and my right foot was unable to control my speed and would not respond to hit the brake.
I decided to contact Motability to ask about hand controls. They gave me a number of a place that does driving assessments. I was worried about the assessment but it was totally fine. I was given the sort of examination a neurologist would and then I drove their car. The type of hand control I have and was assessed on was a ball on the steering wheel for steering with your left hand and a push-pull lever for acceleration and braking operated by my right – you pull towards you to accelerate and push away to brake.
The assessment is as straightforward as can be although my very good looking but not equally functioning legs did want to get involved. I was taken out for around 20 minutes when they told me I was suitable. I received the report in the post a few days later. I think it said "world’s greatest driver" but I could be wrong…
After the assessment Motability will pay for you to have up to 6 lessons with the hand controls but it's up to you. Anyone thinking about hand controls needs to do it. There really is nothing to worry about!
You can email our helpline team with any questions you may have about Motability or driving with MS.