I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis in 1999. I got involved with the Stop MS Appeal to make sure everyone with MS gets the support they need.
I went blind for a week
Before I was diagnosed, I went blind. I woke up to go to work, got dressed, got in my car, and drove to work. But I noticed that my eyesight just seemed to get more blurred as the day went on.
By mid-morning, my eyesight left me completely. I went to Coleraine Hospital, Northern Ireland, and I lay there for about four or five days. I left the hospital exactly the same way I went in.
A week later, I woke up and opened my eyes. I could see perfectly again.
I didn’t know where to turn
One day, I felt like somebody had cut me right down the middle. One side felt normal and the left side felt numb. That’s been the one thing that’s continued for the last 20 years.
I knew nothing about MS. I was diagnosed in the hospital with relapsing remitting MS, the specialist came round and asked if I knew about my symptoms. I said my doctor had mentioned MS but I don’t know what that is. He turned round and said, ‘that’s what you have’. I didn’t know where to turn, or where to go to, or what it was.
What I know now about MS
There are more than 59 different symptoms associated with MS. Some people could have one thing and others 20.
What I would say is try not to Google everything about MS. It can be the worst thing to do, Speak to somebody with MS or a carer of somebody with MS, who knows more about it, and they’ll put your mind at ease. Because when you go onto Google, you’ll drive yourself up the wall.
I would be delighted if nobody would have to go through what I’ve been through and that’s why I’m supporting the Stop MS AppealAlastair is living with MS
I tell people MS doesn’t have to be a life sentence
A friend of my wife lives near someone who has MS. By chance they had just started up an MS group in Coleraine. They talked to me about the truth and myths of MS and how people have different types of MS, which was a great relief.
My wife and I got more involved in the group and we now run it with six fantastic volunteers. It's great because people who have been newly-diagnosed with MS know they can turn to us and we can support them. We tell them it doesn't have to be a life sentence.
I couldn’t get through it without my wife
I get fatigued. I can only describe it as if my body’s just completely tired. I have mood swings and I get very irritable at the slightest thing. I'm still mobile and can walk with the aid of a stick, or I use my mobility scooter. My sleep is disrupted. I normally wake up at four or five o’clock every morning. I have to get up rather than lie in bed, because if I lie in the bed, my legs go into spasm.
If my wife Gillian hadn’t been by my side since the start, I don’t think I could get through this. She’s put up with a lot and was with me eight years later when I was re-diagnosed with primary progressive MS.
A future without MS
I would be delighted if nobody would have to go through what I’ve been through and that’s why I’m supporting the Stop MS Appeal.
Especially when you’re diagnosed, you tend to be relatively young. If scientists could get a cure or help people continue their lives as normal as possible that would be grand.
Will you join Team Stop MS?
We’re the closest we’ve ever been to treatments for everyone. We can see a future where no-one needs to worry about their MS getting worse. To get us there we’ve launched our biggest fundraising appeal yet and we need your help.