Sara was 22 when she was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).
“It all started when I was in my final year of university. I was travelling home from a job interview when somebody stole my purse. It was very upsetting.
“Then I woke the next day and couldn’t see properly. My vision was blurry in my left eye, and I couldn’t see colours clearly. I also had pain behind my eye. I went to the doctor, thinking it would be something like conjunctivitis, but my GP was so concerned that she sent me to hospital that night.
“After a series of tests I was diagnosed with optic neuritis, which is the swelling of the optic nerve. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this is sometimes one of the first signs of MS.
“I then saw a neurologist and had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and some really uncomfortable eye tests. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS and felt very scared.
“By this time, it was six months after my initial eye problems and I was struggling to walk. I was weak, shaky and felt a lot of tingling in my body. My parents noticed I was dragging my left leg. But I think these symptoms were linked to stress – it was just after September 11th, and I remember feeling absolutely devastated.
“I was very fortunate. My neurologist thought I was very well-suited for beta interferon injections. Beta interferon is a disease-modifying medicine that reduces the number and severity of MS relapses.
“Three months later, I was approved for this treatment and started my weekly injections. The side effects were absolutely dreadful. I had flu-like symptoms, which began 24 to 48 hours after the injection.
“I’m still on the injections now, aged 30. Fortunately the side effects have now become less severe, although I do still suffer from them. Because the disease and treatment side effects can make you feel lousy, I’m prone to depression, so I also take antidepressants.
“But by looking at me, you’d never know I have the illness. I work full-time for the NHS, and am doing a Masters degree. I find that it really helps to keep a positive mental attitude.
“I still suffer from fatigue and eye problems, and I now wear glasses. Some days, when my leg isn’t working well, I just take it easy. My work colleagues have been very supportive.
“When I go for my hospital check-ups twice a year, I see people in wheelchairs who are clearly in a much worse condition than I am. I consider myself very lucky.”