A woman looks out at the skyline from a balcony

Standing in the freezing cold to smoke brought it home to me

Kirstie lives in Basingstoke and went to University in Glasgow. She was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2010. Her mum lives with progressive MS. This is Kirstie’s story.

My doctor told me I had a trapped nerve

The first sign of my MS was when I went completely numb down the left side of my body. It lasted for two or three weeks.

I went to the doctor who said that it was a trapped nerve and there was nothing wrong with me. I took him at his word.

Then, about six months later, I lost sight in my right eye. I felt terrified – I could only see things from a tiny part of my eye. I was told in Accident and Emergency on a Saturday night I had optic neuritis and was booked in for an MRI on the following Monday.

By the Tuesday they had diagnosed me with MS.

Rebif injections help me stay in work

It took quite a while for my eyesight to come back, but it’s fine now, although the optician says he can see the damage. I’m also diabetic, so I get my eyes checked twice a year.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, the neurologist said smoking was very bad for the condition, but I had so many other questions I wanted answers to I didn’t take this information in. 

I’ve been having Rebif injections for the last six years and haven’t had a relapse since. It means I’m still able to work full-time. I do walk with a stick as I can get quite stiff sitting in the office as my job is desk based.

Everyone smoked at university

I started smoking when I was 16. At the time everybody smoked as it was socially accepted. It was back when you wanted to look ‘cool’ in front of your friends!

I went to university in Glasgow – everyone smoked there. I could smoke anything from 10 to 20-a-day.

My neurologist warned me

When I was first diagnosed with MS, the neurologist said smoking was very bad for the condition, but I had so many other questions I wanted answers to I didn’t take this information in.

About six years ago I had a bad cold, but was still standing outside on my freezing cold balcony to smoke. I remember walking inside and thinking ‘I must stop this’.

And I did – I haven’t touched a cigarette since…

Nicotine gum and vaping

I used the Nicotine chewing gum to help crack my cravings and then chewed regular gum. It actually took me three years to kick that habit!

I believe there are a huge amount of chemicals in cigarettes, so I wouldn’t want to start smoking again. 

Your routes to quit

If you want to make a quit attempt this October you won’t be alone. There’s support wherever you live in the UK.

If you live in England - sign up for Stoptober on the NHS website

If you live in Scotland - find help on the NHS inform website

If you live in Wales - find help on the Help Me Quit website

If you live in Northern Ireland - find help on the Want 2 Stop website

If you're worried about this information or have questions about smoking and MS, please call our free MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000 or email helpline@mssociety.org.uk