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Stefan Taylor hiking in the mountains, holding two walking poles up in a joyful post

“Having MS isn’t the life sentence I thought it was”

Stefan Taylor

Stefan was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in his final year of university. He shares his story, reflecting on how he dealt with early symptoms, diagnosis and adjusting to life with MS.

Onset of possible MS symptoms

I was diagnosed with optic neuritis in 2013 and my whole world flipped upside down. I knew there was a chance I could be diagnosed with MS. I often cried, my mood had changed, I was angrier and less patient. I didn't know what was going on. I lacked control. I would run for five minutes and collapse as soon as I was in the door. I also had memory problems. But that wasn't really talked about until after I was diagnosed with MS. I remember lying in bed and my right leg would feel like it was vibrating. This is actually now my weak leg - I limp everywhere now. 

Gaining control by exploring Italy

I wanted control. I felt as though my whole world was crashing. So, in 2013 I went back to education. I did an Access to Humanities and Social Science course. During this time, I spent three summers teaching English in Italy. I have amazing memories from that time and made some brilliant friends. We still talk every now and then to this day. 

The first year, I stayed in Sanremo by myself. Travelling alone was a new experience for me. On weekends I would explore - I even had the guts to travel to Venice. It proved to be more of a challenge travelling within a country than to it. Because to get there, all you have to do is jump on a plane. But when you’re there, you don't know the language. You don’t know the directions or how to ask for them. And this was before roaming data - so you can imagine the amount of planning involved. 

I got to Venice at 9:30 in the morning, checked into the hostel, and went to explore. And you know what? I didn’t get back to the hostel until 3am. It was still T-shirt weather, even at that time! I explored most of Venice. I saw the structures, the iconic statues, the churches…and oh my gosh, I had so much gelato! 

While in Italy I also visited two volcanoes and did a trip to Mont Blanc. All three trips were definitely worth it. 

Stefan Taylor standing in the hills in the sun, wearing sunglasses

Studying English at university

After finishing my Access to Humanities Course I went to university to study English. My love of poetry was coming back. Uni gave me new ideas and helped my poetry become better.

By the time third year arrived, I’d forgotten about my potential MS or my CIS (clinically isolated syndrome). As you might’ve done too while reading this! I still hadn’t been diagnosed with MS - I needed to relapse once more to confirm a diagnosis. So, it turned into a waiting game. But at least I was finally in control. I was working hard, was in my final year of university and I had just moved out to live with my girlfriend…Then the diagnosis came.

MS diagnosis

I’d forgotten about the elephant in the room called MS. So when my doctor diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis my whole world crashed. I didn't cry in the doctor's room though. I laughed, for some reason. Some people cry, some people - like myself – laugh. Some people are silent and some people accept it. There's no wrong way to deal with a diagnosis.

I then slipped into depression. There were some days I didn’t actually want to get out of bed because I didn’t want to deal with my symptoms. I wanted to drop out of uni. But my girlfriend - who became my fiancée - was there pushing me. So I stayed at uni.

Silhouette of Stefan wearing a hat and listening to music, looking out at the ocean.
And I graduated. Sure, I slipped a grade, but I still graduated. And no one can take that away.

Processing grief

There are 5 stages of grief and I was finally at the depression stage. This stage probably lasted about 2 years. Then again, my depression has not truly gone away. But instead of taking tablets, I got used to my MS. I’m not even too sure how my mood has picked up. I kept my faith - if anything that’s only got stronger. And I’ve had a wonderful time exploring too. I’m hoping to take on scuba diving next. So watch this space! 

Finding joy through poetry and language 

I plan to continue writing poetry. It's just fun, you know? I get to play with language. It first started with some friends making up raps. And now, because of university, I’ve changed the way I write. I have a lot more fun with it. I look at it as a personal challenge, as I always want to write better poetry. I plan to teach English and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in the future. Also, my fiancée has now become my wife.

I feel as though having MS isn’t the life sentence I thought it was. If anything, I’ve made the best out of the hand I was dealt.