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Kerry walking onto the stage in a tv studio using a stick, laughing

“I’m going to be brave. With bravery comes reward."

Kerry Riches

Kerry lives with relapsing remitting MS and in 2023 she starred on the reality TV show Big Brother. She applied to the show to raise awareness of MS. We spoke to her about her experiences.

When did you first start experiencing MS symptoms?

I first started experiencing MS symptoms fifteen years ago, shortly after giving birth to my son Thomas. I was 25. I had symptoms like pins and needles and a feeling like my head was swimming, like I was on a boat.

Then I lost vision in my left eye  for about 6 weeks, which I now know is optic neuritis. Loss of balance was a big thing for me – I was tripping over my own feet, which I now know was drop-foot. It was horrible.  

When were you diagnosed, and how did you feel?

I went to the GP worried that I had a brain tumour after Googling my symptoms. The doctor sent me for an MRI. When the scan showed I had MS, I felt relief to know what it was. I knew of MS and thought there were bound to be treatments. 
After trying a few different disease modifying therapies (DMTs) over the years, in lockdown I went on to ocrelizumab (Ocrevus). And I’ve never looked back! I use my mobility scooter, and I can walk short distances with my stick, but I’ve never felt so good. 
I do believe there’ll be a cure one day. I’d love them to cure me – but let’s see! 

How did it impact your family and friends?

My son Thomas doesn’t know mummy without MS. I’ve been with my husband for 21 years – married for 17. Before having MS, I was very theatrical. I loved performing, singing, acting and dancing. I starred in panto every year from 8 to 16 at a large theatre called the Playhouse in Essex. I’d love to do panto again one day. 

I almost can’t remember what it was like to not have MS, but I don’t know if that’s because in my mind it’s too painful to go back there.

My mum always used to say: “why is this happening to you? I wish I could take it away - I wish it was me who has it.” She understands now that I didn’t find it helpful for her to say that. I used to think, but you can’t do that, so let’s just do this together – we’re going to be alright. I’m a glass half full person. 

Have you had any contact with the MS Society before?

The MS Society has a big place in my heart. When I was diagnosed my MS nurse told me to only look at credible websites to find information about MS. The MS Society’s website filled me with hope.  

Even now I tell people, be really careful what you read. If you start Googling you might feel you’ve got a death sentence – and it’s really not! 

What inspired you to apply to go on Big Brother?

 I’d always been a huge Big Brother fan. When I was diagnosed I said to my mum and dad: “one day I’ll do something like this to put MS on the map.” But I’d never have gone for it when it was on in the past - they used to have those whacking great big steps up into the house! When I applied for this series, they told me it would be a really big house and would be accessible. I made it clear I didn’t want any special treatment, I just wanted to be sure I could do all the tasks. 
I’ve been an inclusion champion at work for the last 10 years. There are 9 protected characteristics for diversity and inclusion, and I flew the flag for disability. So when I saw Big Brother were looking for real life people who have overcome obstacles to just be themselves – I thought I’d give it a go! I’ve watched other TV shows that raise awareness of other health conditions. I wanted to do something for MS, which can be just as debilitating, but isn’t talked about as much. 

Kerry stood with a stick wearing a colourful outfit in front of the Big Brother eye symbol and an orange background

How were you treated by your housemates? Did you feel they understood MS? Were they understanding and supportive?

No one in the house knew about MS. We did a task on day two or three to get know each other, where we were on a bed and you had to see how long you could stay on the bed. I must have talked about MS for an hour and a half. Some of the housemates said to me recently on social media that they’d never forget that conversation. They said: “You’re an absolute warrior –you’re an inspiration.”  
That’s why I wanted to go into the house as I wanted to empower. MS is my superpower – it will hold me back from nothing. It lit a fire in my belly and it’s never ever stopped me. 

What do you want to achieve in raising awareness of MS now you’ve left the house?

Since I’ve been out of the Big Brother house I’ve had thousands of messages from people saying that they or a family member have MS or that they want to talk to like-minded people about MS. So now I do MS Mondays on TikTok with a lovely lady called Katie. We do our best at signposting help and support, and with my professional experience as former Head of Patient Liaison in the NHS I have a huge amount of knowledge I’m able to share. It’s been really good! 

How has your life changed since you left the show? What are your future plans?

 A leading plus size clothes company in the UK  want to do a collaboration with me. They dressed me for Big Brother Late and Live and for the final. A lot of people saw the clothes I wore, and now they want to work with me as their first disabled model Not that I consider myself a model! 
I’d also like to do more broadcasting, and my dream would be to be a regular panellist on Loose Women or a presenter on This Morning. I’m used to public speaking – I used to travel around the country speaking to people as part of my job.

I want to talk about my passion, which is flying the flag for MS.

I’ve appeared on Good Morning Britain and on Channel 5’s Alexis Conran and Friends show since leaving Big Brother and I’ve now caught the TV bug!
I’m going to be brave. With bravery comes reward.