Guest blogger, Tom Hunter lives in Islandmagee. In 2008 Tom was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). Tom shares his MS journey and explains why getting information and support is so important.
‘When I was diagnosed with MS it was a shock. Looking back I’d probably been living with common MS symptoms - such as pain, fatigue and blurred vision for years - but I never expected a diagnosis of MS. I was always tired. But I was working as a broker in London and I just put it down to working in a fast paced job and tried to carry on as normal.
I decided to take a break and move home to Northern Ireland for a less stressful life but my symptoms continued. I had terrible double vision and kept falling over. Like many men, I wasn’t the best at keeping regular check-ups with my GP but as soon as he saw me, I was sent straight to the Neurology Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital. I was poked, prodded, scanned and reviewed and then the Doctor said “Mr Hunter you have multiple sclerosis”.
I didn’t know anything about MS then but thanks to the fantastic MS nurses, Consultants and the MS Society I’ve come to understand my condition better. MS affects more than 4000 people in Northern Ireland and like me, every one of them lives with the uncertainty of life with MS. MS attacks at random and it can be cruel. One day I can feel fine, but the next I could lose my sight or be unable to walk.
Since my diagnosis my life has changed but in many ways my diagnosis has helped me to become more compassionate towards myself and others. I’ve learnt to live life to the full and how to effectively manage my MS. I returned to college and trained as a counsellor and since 2011 I’ve been a volunteer counsellor with the MS Society. I’ve also joined the MS Society NI Council and help to organise events for local people living with MS like the upcoming Living with MS day – Northern Ireland’s biggest MS information day. Getting the right information and support has helped me cope with my MS and I want others to benefit from that too. The way I see it, getting MS is like joining a family. I won’t always like it being a part of it but I know there will always be someone there to support me.’
Tom is part of the organising committee for Living with MS. This event, which will take place on Saturday 12 September 2015 from 10am – 3pm at Ramada Plaza, Belfast is an information day for people living with MS, their carers, friends and family, as well as health professionals. Guest speakers include top MS researcher Professor Richard Reynolds and inspirational, local MS campaigners Catherine Doran and Conor Devine. The event provides an opportunity for people affected by MS in Northern Ireland to hear about the latest research breakthroughs, get symptom management tips and find out what support is available locally.