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Sheridan: Coming to terms with my MS diagnosis

@sheridanallison
Sheridan: Coming to terms with my MS diagnosis

Hello, my name is Sheridan Allison, and I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in May 2021 at 28 years old. My journey over the last 8 months has been a very challenging and difficult one. I found the diagnosis hard to come to terms with, and the treatment options also hard to come to terms with.

My symptoms came out of nowhere in March 2021 I had lost my balance and was struggling to walk, but the doctor said it was an inner ear infection called labyrinthitis, and it would go away. I then felt better over the next few weeks however I was exhausted, at work I would always be the one in the staffroom talking to everyone however early 2021 I would constantly feel so tired I would put my head down and close my eyes after I had eaten my lunch instead of talking to people and all my work colleagues said there is something wrong this isn't like you at all. Later in the month I had this feeling in my right arm and hand where it wouldn't work properly, I tried to write at work and I couldn't my whole right arm was numb and felt like pins and needles. I tried to type, and my right hand wouldn't work properly, at that point I was thinking, 'have I had a stroke and not known about it?', but I tried to forget about it. It tied in around the same time that I was so tired and fatigued, but I didn't really think about it, and just got some early nights. On the 24th May I went on a family spa break for the weekend which was lovely, however I could not see out of my right eye. Whenever I spoke or wanted to look at someone I had to close my right eye to see them as I couldn't see when I had it open everything was blurry and the colours were different, my colour changed in my vision too, if I closed my left eye and only had my right eye open the trees were brown and red, if I closed my right eye and had my left eye only open the trees were all green. When I came home from the spa break, I felt like I deteriorated quite quickly. I had to put a patch over my eye as I could not see anything with it open. I didn't understand what was happening, I just though lack of sleep or stress, maybe.

I have worked as a dental nurse for 7 years and was promoted to practice manager in September 2020, I am very fortunate to be in a career that I love, the dental practice that I work at is like a second family, everyone is so supportive and my boss has been so understanding at me needing time off for appointments and infusions, I am very lucky. I went to work on the Monday morning after the spa break with the patch on my eye and my work colleagues sent me to the doctor, when I saw the doctor and told him all my symptoms his words were "how quickly can you get to A&E?". As soon as he said that I knew it was something serious, and I was so scared, my colleague drove me 40 mins to the nearest Hospital but due to Covid I had to be in on my own I was not allowed anyone to stay with me. I spent the whole day in A&E having multiple tubes of blood taken, which coming from someone who is terrified of needles was awful, especially being all on my own. I was waiting until 7pm at night as this specific nurse wanted me to have an MRI that day as an emergency but had to wait until the end of the day for a scanner to be available, I had the MRI and was told to go home and rest. The next day I got a phone call around 9am from a doctor at the hospital saying we have found abnormal lesions on your brain and need you to come straight away, again that comment filled me with dread, I had all kind of thoughts going through my head of brain tumour etc, I asked my parents if I was going to die. They took me to hospital, and I spent 4 days there having 13 tubes of blood taken, a lumbar puncture and another further MRI with liquid placed to see if the lesions were active. On the 4th day of being in hospital, on Thursday 27th May 2021 I was taken into a private room on the ward, and I was told I had highly active relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. I was absolutely devastated; I was signed off work for 2 weeks and my neurologist told me to go enjoy the 2 weeks doing what I love and try to come to terms with the diagnosis before deciding treatment options.

I then went for an appointment with my neurologist about treatment options, and he said because of how active my MS was and how young I was, he wanted to hit it hard and therefore my options were Ocrevus, an IV infusion every 6 months or Tysabri, again and IV infusion but this one every 4-6 weeks, for someone who is terrified of needles this was hard to deal with, and I asked if I could have the Tecfidera tablets instead, he told me it was my choice if I wished to do that, but he would strongly advise an IV infusion to stop my MS from progressing further for a long time, I took the neurologists advice and chose the treatment option of Ocrevus. I have had my first 2 halves of the infusion, and I am due my first full dose in February.

From May - to December 2021 were without a doubt the worst 7 months of my life, my diagnosis really affected my mental health, I felt like I had changed as a person, I felt so lonely, I felt like I wouldn't be able to achieve my dreams, I was so scared of everything, I was put on anxiety medication when I have never suffered from anxiety in my life, I was always such a carefree person before my diagnosis. The one thing that kept me going and stopping me from feeling so alone along with my amazing fiancé, family and friends who were always there for me and kept trying to help me to be positive, I also found social media a huge help too, I joined MS forums on Facebook and I found a lot of people on Instagram who have MS and have connected with them, one girl especially called Eliza who I now speak to every single day. Instagram has helped me so much, seeing other people with MS still going out and enjoying themselves living their best life has given me the positivity to do the same. I have watched the series 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' for many years now, and I have never known anyone with MS go on the programme, the year I get diagnosed, Kadeena Cox goes on the show and shows the whole country that with MS you can still achieve everything you want too in life, she has given me hope and inspiration for my future alongside Stephanie Millward who is a medallist winner at the Tokyo Paralympics and was so kind she actually messaged me back and gave me the details on how to get in the swimming Paralympic however sadly there is not a swimming club near me, yet that would support this, but I am hoping there maybe will be one day, that's another ambition that has simply come since my diagnosis.

When 2022 New Year's Day came, I told myself it is a fresh start and I need to get back to my old self, yes I have MS, I will be living with MS for the rest of my life and there's nothing I can do about unless a cure is hopefully found soon, if not then I am hoping my Ocrevus treatment lets me live my life to the fullest for as long as possible. I am a very active person who likes to be out doing things when I am not at work, I love swimming, running, walking, cycling and yoga, and I am feeling hopeful that my MS will not stop me from been able to continue to enjoy all these activities as well as living my life as normal as possible. I also love going on holiday and seeing the world, sadly Covid has stopped that for two years now, but I get married in October this year and hoping to go to the Maldives on our honeymoon which is a dream destination.

I would like to reassure anyone who gets newly diagnosed with MS that it really is not the end, yes it's a horrible diagnosis but with the treatments that are available now, I do believe we can still live our life to the fullest and for anyone who has been recently diagnosed or for anyone who is struggling, my inbox is always open.

Sheridan x

About the author

@sheridanallison

My name is Sheridan, I live in the countryside in North Yorkshire. I work as a Dental Practice Manager and I was diagnosed with RRMS in May 2021 at the age of 28! Since my diagnosis, I have raised £1,130 for the MS Society and I hope to continue raising money for MS in the future.