Charlotte Doherty Image MS Society

Bedfordshire veterinary receptionist reveals impact of multiple sclerosis in charity appeal

A study has found that one in five people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK is under the age of 30. As part of a £100 million charity appeal, a 28-year-old Cranfield resident living with MS is shedding light on the need for new treatments.

Charlotte Doherty was diagnosed with relapsing MS in October 2017, over 40 year years since her late grandmother was told she had progressive MS, and 20 since her uncle was told he was living with the progressive form of the condition.

She experiences fatigue, the MS hug and altered sensations in her body, from numbness to freezing cold hands and feet. She said:

“As a family we knew what MS was, but growing up nothing ever happened that pointed towards me developing it as an adult. It all started when I was involved in a car accident in May 2017.

“Luckily both myself and the other driver were not badly injured, but soon after I kept getting sciatica when I moved my neck.

“Something just didn’t feel right, but the doctor thought I’d possibly damaged my back. Then my foot started to catch on the stairs. It was a sensation I’d never experienced before. I was telling my foot to move but it just wouldn’t lift as I wanted it to.

“As the weeks passed I wasn’t able to drive, I was getting vertigo, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t jog, I was walking with a limp, suddenly I couldn’t do anything. Eventually I was sent for an MRI thinking that maybe I had trapped a nerve – it turned out to be MS.

“Before my diagnosis I was a full-time reception manager in a veterinary surgery, it was my dream job. But at the same time as being told I had MS my Nan passed away and the stress and upset made my symptoms worst.

“I realised that I needed to focus on myself, so I left my job and took six months off to learn to live with my MS.”

30 under 30s Stop MS Appeal

According to the MS Society, MS is the most common progressive neurological condition in young people today. There are 130,000 people living with MS in the UK. In the last year more than 1,250 people under 30 have been diagnosed.

Charlotte is one of 30 under 30s appearing in a new story and photo series from the MS Society and award winning photographer Spencer Murphy, as part of the charity’s Stop MS Appeal.

Subjects range from age 16-30, and include a trainee vicar, an expectant mum, and a drummer in a metal band amongst others.

MS is highly unpredictable and, when diagnosed, no one knows how their condition will develop, or how disabled they may become.

Approximately 85% of people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing form, where symptoms come in sudden attacks then fade.

Two in three of them will go on to develop secondary progressive MS, where there is no remission and you become increasingly disabled. 10-15% of people have primary progressive MS, where symptoms gradually get worse from the outset.

Charlotte has been on disease modifying drug, Tysabri, for the last three years:

“I’m now working part-time as veterinary receptionist, and although my MS fatigue means I’ll never be a manager again, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.

“When I think about the future I am afraid of the uncertainty, and some days I’ll think ‘what if in five years I can’t walk again?’ but no one knows what’s going to happen, and it’s important to remember to put things into perspective and not get stuck thinking ‘what if’.

“Research and treatments are constantly evolving, and now I feel like I can handle anything that is thrown my way. At the beginning I thought the worst, but now I’m only getting better. I haven’t had any new lesions, so Tysabri is my miracle drug, it’s saved me.

“I’m passionate about raising more awareness about MS as a lot of people don’t know the ins and outs. MS is invisible and if you met me on the street you’d think I looked fine, but you wouldn’t know what pain I’m in. People don’t know that I can’t wear tight jeans or underwired bras as they bring on the MS hug, no one can see that.”

Charlotte Doherty with her boyfriend James Image MS Society

Charity hopes to be in the final stages of testing a range of treatments for everyone with MS by 2025

Tens of thousands of people with progressive forms of MS still have no treatment to help them as their condition advances. The Stop MS Appeal needs to raise £100 million to find new treatments, so no one needs to worry about their MS getting worse.

By 2025, the charity hopes to be in the final stages of testing a range of treatments for everyone with MS. Dr Emma Gray, assistant director of Research at the MS Society, said:

“Today, most people will first experience MS symptoms in their 20s and 30s, when they’re working on their career, or perhaps thinking about starting a family. The condition is unpredictable and different for everyone, and that can make it hard to plan for the future.

“There are now over a dozen licensed treatments for people with the relapsing form of MS, and some emerging for early active progressive MS – but there is nothing to stop you becoming more disabled as your condition advances.

“Thankfully, we have never been closer to stopping MS, and with the discoveries being made right now, we believe treatments that slow or stop disability progression are a very real prospect.”

Thanks to its supporters, the MS Society has secured over £54 million for MS research. With more help, it hopes it can reach its target and stop MS. For more information visit www.mssociety.org.uk/STOP-MS.

Text FUTURE8 to 70800 to donate £5 and support the Stop MS Appeal.

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