30 year old, Jessica Webb from Shadwell was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when she was 28 - after a prior misdiagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
After losing the use of the left-hand side of her body a decade ago, Jessica started having leg and back spasms and experiencing slurred speech, severe pain, cognitive problems and sensitivity to light, as well as suffering from poor sleep. She only partly recovered, before going blind in one eye a couple of years later through Optic Neuritis.
Slowly, Jessica regained most of her sight but started to have increasing problems with walking. After taking many falls and enduring dizziness amongst a plethora of other symptoms, Jessica visited a physiotherapist.
Commenting on her experience, Jessica says: “I went to a physiotherapist to see if he could help with my walking. He took one look at me and said “I can't help you. You need to see a neurologist as soon as you can”. I saw one two weeks later and within a month I heard those four little words that changed my life forever… “You have Multiple Sclerosis.”
Jessica was diagnosed with Rapidly Evolving, Severe Relapse and Remitting MS which means she now takes daily medication, including Gabapentin, Baclofen and Diclofenac, self catheterises four times a day and sticks to a low fat diet. Other methods of coping with her condition include the use of a massage bed each morning and evening, which helps with the secondary symptoms of MS that contribute towards daily discomfort and pain, as well as monthly visits to a chiropractor.
She adds: “I am trying to teach myself CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and Mindfulness to combat panic attacks, which were recommended by my counsellor. I also do stretches that the physio gave me and I attempt to stay as active as I can.”
Living with MS has meant that Jessica’s everyday life is completely different to before she was diagnosed, but she is keen to see the positive sides.
“My daily life does not resemble the life I had before I got ill but in many ways it’s a million times better. Life throws things at you that you have to cope with and overcome but once you succeed in doing so, you look back and realise inner strength you would never have known you possessed unless faced with a challenge such as MS”, says Jessica.
As well as working in Central London for BSKYB as an I.T application support analyst, Jessica tries to help out wherever possible with online community, www.shift.ms in return for the support she received from them since her diagnosis. She will be helping out at the shift.ms stall with her partner Matt at the next MS Life event in Manchester this April and is looking forward to attending the research talks on offer.
Jessica said: “Being as proactive as I can about my MS is so important to me - anywhere I can gain knowledge or understanding is somewhere I want to be. MS Life is a great opportunity to meet and speak to others with MS and it’s a good place to promote shift.ms and my own blog. Shift.ms has done so much in support of those with MS and it would be fantastic to encourage more people into the community.”
Eager to champion the work of others in the MS field on her blog, www.memyselfandms.com , informs others living with MS where they can get help and support, whilst Jessica also uses it to diarise her methods of coping day-to-day. Her spirit and gratitude to the likes of Access to Work, which made staying at work possible for her, are obvious and she is positive about the future.
Jessica added: “I once read, soon after my diagnosis that ensuring you have a good medical team is essential in dealing with MS. These words could not have been truer, and I would love for others to appreciate these words of wisdom. I also believe having a strong network of friends, family and where possible a partner is also important. It’s easy to get into the mindset that you are better off alone and nobody understands, but I have found that even though people might not feel like I do, there is comfort in that.
“I would not wish MS on anyone and in return I know that those close to me would do anything to take this burden away from me, so I think it’s life's way of balancing things out. MS'ers find comfort in each other, sharing war stories, swapping ideas, sharing remedies, discussing medication and finally willing each other on - that is why shift.ms and MS Life are so important - they bring people together, from near and far and help us not feel alone in this struggle.”