When an MSer friend told me about a ‘festival for young people with MS’ happening in Prague, I just knew I wanted to go.
I was excited at the prospect of meeting other people with MS in a unique environment dedicated just to people like me. When I applied, I had no idea then of the impact MS Sessions would have on my life.
I was thrilled to find out I had been successful in my application. I travelled, alone, to Prague. I was so nervous to get on that flight by myself, but so excited too. When I arrived at the airport in Prague, I started to panic. Where should I go? How should I get there?
At this moment, I met Eve and John who were also travelling to MS Sessions. They shared a cab with me to the hotel and the rest, as they say, is history. We’ve been friends ever since.
Upon walking into the reception for MS Sessions, I was handed a drink and a bag with a timetable for the weekend. I stood in the room, surrounded by other young people with MS and I just knew I belonged.
It was such a powerful feeling of inclusion. Such a unique situation to be surrounded by other people who just ‘get it’. That weekend, I made friends who are still in my life now. I got to listen to talks, speeches and presentations from neurologists, therapists, other MSers, an employment specialist and many more.
The information I learned over the weekend was invaluable and it empowered me to be a strong advocate for myself as a patient. There was also a lot of information on how to be an advocate for other people with MS. There were workshops and presentations and lots of great advice.
The feeling of inclusion and belonging was so potent to me that I just knew I had to get involved in advocacy.
Since MS Sessions in 2017 I have become a volunteer for my local branch of the MS Society. I also run their Facebook page. I have set up a new social for members of my local MS Society at a time convenient to those who may be working. I have created a new MS patient support group for my local hospital. We meet at the pub and the only requirement to join is a positive attitude!
MS Sessions encouraged me to take control of my own story as an MSer. It allowed me to be empowered as an advocate for myself and others with this disease. It let me make loads of new friends who totally ‘get it. It was the experience of a lifetime.
My name is Helen Chandler. I’m a mum of two little boys with a passion for advocacy, inclusion and empowerment. In this blog I’ll be sharing with you the ways in which MS Sessions and patient advocacy have changed my life enabling me to take far more from MS than it has taken from me.