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Photo: Nic Chapman Haste of Pixiwoo standing in front of a bookcase

Pixiwoo’s Nic: ‘Life can be better than it was before’

Frances Whinder

YouTube star Nic Haste talks to us about coming out with MS, juggling MS and being a working mum, and how exercise helps her feel good.

Nic Haste is one of YouTube’s biggest names. With sister Sam, she shares make-up tips and tutorials on their Pixiwoo channel. In the past 10 years, they’ve published over 800 videos and amassed over two million subscribers.

But on 22 June 2017, Nic published a video unlike any she’d made before. In it, she told her followers that she’s been living with MS for the past five years.

We chatted to Nic about coming to terms with her diagnosis and living well with MS.

What were you feeling in the minutes before the video was published?

Everything! I was worried that people would treat me differently – I’d be ‘that girl with MS’. Once it was out there, there’d be no turning back. But we tell our audience everything, and I’d wanted to tell everyone for so long. So I also felt excited.

What changed to make you feel ready to tell the world about your MS?

I was finally in a better place than I was before I was diagnosed. I was able to exercise again, and my head was in a better place. I felt stronger.

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I cried a lot. But now I’m well, I want people going through the same thing to know there is hope. Life can be better than it was before.

At first I was scared of being judged. Now I’m not afraid of what other people think.

In the video, you talk about some of your symptoms – vision problems, trouble finding your words, tingling and numbness. How have people reacted to your condition being invisible?

I’m lucky I’ve never had a negative reaction to my MS. But I do have to explain it all the time because people can’t see it.

Sometimes my MS makes me lose my words, but I don’t worry about it happening on film or in a big meeting – because I’d get the words wrong anyway! Sam will correct me, but I don’t take offence. Everyone makes mistakes. And if I need to, I’m not embarrassed to explain and say I have MS.

Your children, Harry and Edie, are 5 and 4. Have you explained MS to them?

At the moment, they are too young to understand MS. To them, I’m exactly the same as other mums. They know that mummy needs more sleep than daddy – there have to be some perks to having MS! But they’ve never questioned it. If anything changes, or they start to ask questions, I will explain it.

What’s it like juggling being a busy working mum with managing your MS?

My kids are a trigger for my MS. When they argue, my eye twitches, which I know is a sign. I think it’s important to talk about, because people might be embarrassed to say ‘My kids trigger my MS.’

I used to stress about needing to be away for work. But now I see it as an opportunity to have a rest! And I try to relax and have quality time away from the kids, like dinner with the girls.

I’ve learnt to understand my body. Now I know to take myself out of a stressful situation – whether that is work or kids.

How important is exercise in managing your MS?

I love to train. We’ve turned our spare room into a gym. I try to exercise every morning. I do things like squats and burpees. But since MS, I don’t lift heavy weights or do anything that moves my head too much.

Exercise helps me feel normal, refreshed, better about my body – it gets my brain going, it makes me happy. But I don’t overdo it. If my eye starts twitching, I’ll stop. I’ll know I’ve done enough for the day.

I do have to go to bed earlier if I train. I only have a set amount of energy per day, so if I use some of it for exercise, I have less in the evening. To start with, I had to go to bed a lot earlier when I trained, but as I’ve become fitter, it affects me less.