Shift.ms, the social network for people with multiple sclerosis, has released a short web series ‘Family Matters’ about the effects MS has on people’s relationships. The digital charity teamed up with MSer Daniel Lafferty, his partner Kevin and mum Aileen to tell the story of how Daniel’s diagnosis at a young age (15) affected the relationships around him.
When Daniel was 15 years-old he woke up one morning unable to see or walk. He was one of the few people with MS to have symptoms develop suddenly and aggressively, which left him feeling beyond terrified. He was the first person in the UK to be put on Tysabri, a disease modifying treatment for very active relapsing-remitting MS.
“Everything I had known myself to be had been taken away from me. So many questions ran through my mind. Would I be able to finish school? What about work? What about living with a partner? Nobody had the answers to any of these questions”
His parents very quickly became everything to Daniel, who was dependent on their support for everything: from showering him, reading to him, feeding him. “I was unable to envision any future for myself where I was able to live independently” said Daniel.
The web series consists of three short episodes that look at different stages in Daniel’s life:
🔹Change: This film is the most chaotic and explores the most difficult time in Daniel’s life – the initial diagnosis at a time of immense life change.
🔹Independence: This film deep dives into what that change caused and highlights how Daniel felt cut off from the world. His life was living dependent on his parents and Daniel describes himself feeling lost as he was also struggling with his sexuality.
🔹Identity: This film shows how gaining independence helped Daniel gain confidence with his MS and sexuality. It shows how adapting to the change and having his independence has left him in a much more positive place.
Today, Daniel lives with fiancé Kevin in Stirling, Scotland. “At fifteen I was comfortable with my sexuality but I wasn’t at a point where I wanted to discuss it with anyone. Being a gay man and having MS, I felt like a minority within a minority.”
“Meeting Kevin was a turning point for me. Meeting him allowed me to understand and appreciate myself and show me that there was a future. He allowed me to see that there is a path where you can live a life that’s not focused on the condition.”
Kevin said: “Daniel having MS has helped us be such a fun couple because it’s pushed us to make the most of life.”
The Family Matters web series aims to increase awareness among the MS community about how they can get support from those around them; and for family and friends of MSers to better understand how they can support a family member with MS.
Alongside the release of Family Matters, Shift.ms is exploring the impact of MS on relationships by calling people with MS and those closest to them to contribute to a digital journal.
Together with the MS community, Shift.ms will collectively gather the challenges, issues, success stories and human realities of the impact of MS in the family for the world to see. The digital journal hopes to raise awareness around the impact of MS on relationships, and will demonstrate the ways that people have coped.
Want to tell your story? MSers, family and friends can contribute to the journal here
Daniel was diagnosed with highly aggressive MS when he was 15 years old. His early life was one of transitions, Moving home, moving school, recovering and coming to terms with his MS and coming out as a gay man and then finding a partner. While Daniels Story is exceptional, there are elements within it that we can all relate to, the key thread through his journey and though ours is the importance of strong family and friend support networks, to catch us when we need support and take the reins when we cant.