The official ambassadors for the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group Step Up for MSWA are Gemma Missen and Tory Lloyd - two people who are currently living with multiple sclerosis. Their stories are below so that you can learn a bit more about their lives and the reason they support Step Up for MSWA.
Gemma Missen remembers life before multiple sclerosis (MS), as extraordinary. It was 2015, and she was planning her dream wedding, focusing on her health and enjoying catching up with family and friends. Her first clue that something wasn’t right was tingling and stabbing pains around her face and neck. Two months later, following some scans, a hospital stay, and other tests, Gemma was diagnosed with MS.
“At first I think I was in shock and frightened at what was to come. I’m a bit of a control freak, so accepting that I can’t know what’s coming my way, was tough. I felt alone and a little bit ripped off” said Gemma.
Not knowing much about MS, Gemma was scared of the future and felt like she was battling a rollercoaster of emotions. Once she knew about MSWA she was grateful for the support and services offered. Gemma said, “Just by being there, having the support from my counsellor and the nurses at MSWA has made my journey a lot easier”.
Fatigue affects Gemma the most, and she believes her lifestyle and emotions can contribute to a relapse. A full night’s sleep was always a priority, but has now shot to the top of the list. Her most recent scans are very positive and has encouraged Gemma to come to a place of acceptance and no longer wear her condition as a label. Gemma said, “My advice to anyone in the MSWA community would be to take each day as it comes”.
Now 32, Gemma is regaining her extraordinary life thanks to an incredibly supportive network including her husband Matthew. She strives to live a happy and healthy life and is learning to laugh at herself, once more.
“Joining the MSWA 2017 Step Up event was one of my health goals and I feel lucky that I’m still able to do it. I also wanted to give back to MSWA” said Gemma. She can't wait to smash it in 2018, and hopefully one day, she’ll be ready to do the “Double Up Challenge”.
2017 will be a year that Tory Lloyd will never forget. Whilst working long hours in real estate, battling huge amounts of stress and looking after two young children, she woke one morning to find she couldn’t put on her mascara. Less than 48 hours later, numerous tests and two MRI’s, Tory was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).
After discussions with her doctor, Tory was in shock and fearing the worst. She had heard of MS before but hadn’t paid much attention to it and her first thought was that she would lose her mobility and have to give up her career.
“I had huge amounts of stress in my life at that time, I was in the midst of a marriage breakdown, I smoked and drank too much and had a very poor diet” Tory said.
She was grateful when she reached out to MSWA and received vital information and assistance which guided her to make the right choices for herself and family. What was particularly beneficial was speech therapy and counselling, and thanks to the support she received, there have been some major changes to Tory’s lifestyle.
“Sadly, I separated from my husband. I quit smoking immediately, a month later I cut all refined sugar, processed foods, gluten, diary and alcohol from my diet. I now meditate every day and exercise at least 5 times a week”.
The symptoms that currently affect Tory are fatigue, brain fog and occasionally depression but her journey with MS is always changing and she’s learnt to deal with these impacts positively. She’s thankful of not needing medication at this stage. “MSWA has connected me with people going through similar experiences and being able to talk through issues has helped me stay positive” said Tory.
Family life is very different these days and the children are slowly learning to understand MS. Her six year old daughter is very proud of Tory quitting smoking and is learning how diet can affect your health.
Tory believed it was important to show her children that setbacks might not be easier, but you have to approach them with a positive attitude, which is why she joined the 2017 ‘Step Up for MSWA’ event. “It’s a great fundraiser, helps many in need, is lots of fun and embodies my positive and strong attitude to MS” said Tory.