Living with Multiple Sclerosis- A Creeslough Woman’s Perspective

This article appeared in the 2023 edition of the Creeslough View magazine

By Maggie Green

Pins and needles, such an innocuous phrase, we’ve all experienced it and it passes as quickly as it starts, except when it doesn’t. Seven years ago this summer I woke up with pins and needles and a little numbness in one of my arms, initially I thought it would pass but when it didn’t I went to the doctor and what started off as ‘possibly a trapped nerve’ very quickly turned into a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I remember lying perfectly still during the first MRI scan, I was almost scared to breathe, my mind was racing and I was desperately hoping that the scan would be clear. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I still remember getting the news, my husband was with me and as we sat in the consultant’s office listening to him outline what this diagnosis meant for me his words raced over my head. My thoughts turned to my children, who were 4 and 5 at the time, all I wanted was to stay well enough to be able to care for them. My perception of MS was limited, Marie Fleming came into my mind, I had followed her case in the media but other than that I knew very little of what MS would mean for me and I was terrified. 

When I was diagnosed I was in the middle of a Masters by Research at what is now ATU Donegal, I was also working full time as a teacher and caring for my children. The fatigue, lack of sensation in my hands and feet, headaches and other symptoms of MS really made it very difficult for me to concentrate on studying and I dragged myself through the final months of write up. I had intended to go straight on to complete a Doctorate in Education after the Masters, but I knew that I had to give myself time to recuperate and as MS is an unpredictable chronic illness I never really knew how I was going to be from day to day. MS had a huge impact on my confidence, I had always strongly identified as a lifelong learner, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete another course of study if I started and so I put off applying. Fast forward a few years and like everyone else I found myself at home a lot during the first Covid-19 lockdown. I had a lot of time to think and I decided to apply for the next doctoral intake at DCU. I was accepted on to the course and the first two years passed quickly in a haze of reading, writing and assignments, at the beginning of the third year I received a phone call to tell me that I had been awarded the John Smith Doctoral Scholarship Award for my first two years of work. I was overwhelmed, after my diagnosis I never thought that I would ever go back to university, so realising that I was capable of continuing with my studies gave me a boost and really helped me to get some of my confidence back.  I hope to complete the write up of my thesis this year. 

Living with MS is something that I’ve adapted to, I know that I don’t have the same energy that I used to and I sometimes struggle with that. I work full time and as the end of my studies approach I’m looking forward to having a little more time to myself, to rest or see friends or get involved in activities that I’ve put on the back burner for a while. Some days I wake up pain and symptom free and other days I wake up knowing that I have to listen to my body and rest. My neurologist in Dublin is incredible and I see him every year for a check in. MS changed the course of my life, it made me stop (because I had no choice!) and evaluate what is important to me and it has made me more conscious of where my energy goes. My children get the bulk of my energy, as is the case in most families and I wouldn’t change this for the world, I feel very lucky that I get to wake up every day and look after my children. It sounds like a simple thing, but really it’s everything. 

MS Ireland has been a huge support to me and I’ve shared my story as a contributor to the MS and Me Blog, by being an ambassador for the MS Readathon and by being involved in newspaper articles and interviews on the local radio station. I think it’s important to help people understand more about MS and to make sure that the information that is being shared about MS is accurate. When I was diagnosed if I hadn’t found the MS Ireland website I’m not sure where I would have turned to for support. 

I don’t know how my MS will progress, so I look at every day as a gift. At the moment I am well and that is something I will never take for granted. Being diagnosed with MS is life changing, but all you can do is take it one day at a time. For anyone who is newly diagnosed I’d highly recommend getting in touch with MS Ireland for support and information. 


This article appeared in the 2023 edition of the Creeslough View magazine