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A house at night with a garden full of large illuminated Christmas ornaments

Raising money with my Christmas lights

Mairi Valentine

Mairi Valentine has been collecting Christmas garden decorations for 10 years. Her front garden in Bearsden (Glasgow) has become so popular she uses it to help raise money for MS. 

When I was 17 or 18 I went blind in my left eye for three months. But it wasn’t until I was 23, with a six-month-old baby, that I received a diagnosis.

After she was born, I went completely numb on the left-hand side of my body. I thought the epidural hadn’t worn off – but when I spoke to my doctor, it became obvious that it was MS.

Treating my MS

Being diagnosed and struggling with relapses has been hard. It was difficult to get the right medication – I tried glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), but dealing with the pain in the injection site made it too difficult to lift my daughter. I was put on the medical trial for dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) but came off the drug when I found out I was pregnant again.

Read more about pregnancy and MS

After my second daughter was born, I had a seizure. I couldn’t really walk. I couldn’t speak properly - my voice was constantly shaky, and I couldn’t use my arms very well. I lost my driving licence for a year, which added another layer of difficulty.

There’s been a lot of fine months, but obviously, the day-to-day isn’t always as simple. I get so fatigued and struggle daily with walking and energy. My memory is terrible and struggle with remembering what I have to do on a daily basis. I’m now on ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), which has helped, and go to the hospital every six months for an infusion.

I have some amazing friends and family that I couldn’t live without, but there are still plenty of people who don’t understand and think that MS isn’t real. That’s why it’s important to me to help raise awareness of MS.

Christmas lights

The December I was diagnosed also happened to be my daughter’s first Christmas. It’s my favourite time of the year, and every year since then, I’ve bought a new big, bright Christmas decoration for the garden.

She’s ten now, so for the past decade, it’s just slowly but surely got bigger. So last year we did our first Christmas light switch-on as a fundraising event. This year, we chose to raise money for MS Society, marking ten years since my MS diagnosis.

Everyone loves the decorations, even in the cold! Kids come to take pictures, and I love seeing their smiles and hearing them laughing when I’m sitting inside.