Diagnosed with MS at 21
I was 21 years old and in the first year of a 4-year doctoral program in Neuroscience at Oxford University when I first got a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. At first the illness was easy to ignore (my walking and physical fitness were not noticeably affected, though I did suffer recurrent visual disturbances that responded well to steroid treatment).
Wheelchair-bound at 38
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and at the age of 38, after the birth of my second child, I found myself in a wheelchair. As walking became progressively harder for me, I was forced to retire from the career I loved and had spent 20+ years training for.
On a personal level the worst thing about my disability was the devastating impact it had on my dear husband and on my young family. By pulling together hard against the awful, unexpected challenges we now faced, we came through, and found a new way to live. In some ways, my disability destroyed many aspirations we once had but also ended up bringing us closer than ever before.
There were many things to accept as a new wheelchair user – the immobility, the non-stop sitting, the lack of movement in one’s legs, the lack of independence and being able to look after yourself. All of these things I had expected – watch any plucky wheelchair user on tv and they seem perfectly content with their lot, bravely smiling from the confines of their chair. What I did not expect was the PAIN. Unless your sensory nerves are cut, sitting for days on end in a chair, in the same position is excruciatingly painful. Not many people know that.
Exercise for All – stopping the pain and building a happier and healthier life for people with disability
Fed up with enforced immobility, with the help of wonderful family and friends, I made the decision NOT to accept that disability meant the final end of movement and exercise for my legs – so I started Exercise for All. This is my story of how exercise has helped me fight back against the pain and muscle wastage of an enforced sedentary life. This journey has only just begun and has already led me to meet a team of incredible people, and to experience extraordinary things along the way. I started this blog so I could share with you my progress towards improving my own fitness whilst hopefully creating a fairer and more compassionate society where everyone can benefit from the positive impact of exercise, regardless of ability.