A Lisburn mother has told her story in support for the MS Society’s Treat Me Right Campaign.
The campaign was launched to ensure that all licensed MS treatment options are made freely available on the NHS to everyone who needs them and who may be eligible.
Judith Preston, 45, was diagnosed with Relapsing MS in 2002. She is a mum to Adam, 17, and Sarah, 15, and lives in Stoneyford, with husband Jonathan.
Judith is one of more than 4,000 people living with multiple sclerosis in Northern Ireland.
Judith experienced her first MS symptoms in 2000 with some numbness, pain and blurred vision but says she tried to put these to the back of her mind.
When the symptoms persisted she contacted her GP. After months of endless appointments and no obvious explanation for the on-going symptoms, Judith visited a consultant at the Ulster Clinic. Following an MRI, the consultant diagnosed relapsing remitting MS.
Judith said: “It was a complete shock. I knew absolutely nothing about MS and like many people my immediate reaction was ‘am I going to be in a wheelchair?’.
Judith has also experienced one of the most frightening symptoms of MS, optic neuritis – an inflammation of the optic nerve which can cause partial vision loss.
Judith: “I’ve had optic neuritis a few times. My vision goes completely grey and there is a lot of pain around my eye.
“It is frightening to lose your vision but thankfully it has come back.
“I had a bad relapse in November last year. I had numbness all over my body, except my head and shoulders.
“It feels like my symptoms are becoming more aggressive but I’m trying to keep positive because I know my MS will fluctuate from time to time”.
Patricia Gordon, NI Director of the MS Society said: “For too long, people with MS have faced significant barriers in accessing the treatments they need.
“Effective medicines are emerging that could dramatically change the landscape of treatment for people with MS, but the years of research that led to their development will count for nothing if people can’t get hold of them. “
Judith currently injects disease modifying drugs – medicines designed to slow the progression of MS and prevent relapses – three times a week but says she hopes that new oral disease modifying drugs (in tablet form) will be available as soon as possible in Northern Ireland.
She said: “Thankfully there are now drugs which can slow the progression of this condition. However, injections are tough.
Judith, has continued to work since her diagnosis and wants to encourage people who are newly diagnosed with MS to realise that with the right medicines and support that they can continue to live life to the full.
Judith commented: “I’ve always really enjoyed my work so when I was diagnosed I did worry but thankfully I’ve been able to continue working.
She says: “Living with MS is hard. There have been times when I’ve had a bad relapse and I worry about it but I try to keep positive and not look too far ahead.
“I’m lucky to have a supportive family and I know they need me too so I can’t fall to pieces”.
For more information on MS, or to read more about the campaign, go to www.treatmerightms.org.uk or call 0808 800 8000.