I was diagnosed with MS in 2004 and started volunteering for the MS Society in 2007. I wanted to use my own experiences of MS to help others.
Helping people newly diagnosed with MS
I volunteer as a self-management course leader. My role involves delivering sessions to groups who are newly diagnosed with MS. I run around three courses a year. They span a couple of weeks and normally include two or three meetings.
We discuss self-management techniques for symptoms such as fatigue and pain. We also talk about the benefits of exercise, health and wellbeing.
Working together with people with MS
It takes a little courage to stand in front of a group of your peers and lead a session, but the environment is very supportive and friendly. You need to be able to manage the conversations but you get better at that the more experienced you become.
What I always try to put across is that I’m only an expert in my own MS. That’s why we work together to co-produce solutions and learn how to listen to our own bodies.
I really enjoy meeting people and being part of a network of like-minded souls. I love that I’m raising awareness about MS, changing people’s perceptions and helping them to understand self-management.
The impact of volunteering
I was lost when I was diagnosed with MS, but volunteering helped me as a person. I learned a lot about myself and about MS. I’m a stronger person through my volunteering. Before I was diagnosed I wouldn’t have been able to stand in front of people and lead sessions like I do now.
I think what I enjoy most is the impact the course has on some of the newly diagnosed people. I can see the change in them. They start to realise they have support around them and tools to manage their condition.