"I’d be lost without the local MS Society group"

Val Simmons lives in North Wales with her husband Dave and their dog Penny. Val is the group co-ordinator for our Conwy and Denbighshire MS Society group. This month she featured in a BBC Lifeline Appeal for the MS Society.

I was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2008. I lost my eyesight in my right eye completely, it took six weeks to get it back. I was getting other symptoms - pins and needles in my hands and feet, numbness down the whole of the right side of my body. I then lost my eyesight again. I saw a consultant at an eye hospital and they referred me for an MRI scan.  

I did the worst thing you can do and googled all my symptoms. I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with MS but it was still devastating to have it confirmed. It took three years from the start of my symptoms to the final diagnosis.

I was working as a busy theatre manager at the time and loved my job. I exercised regularly, I loved to dance.

It was a worry to think about all the things I might not be able to do in the future.

Joining the MS group

While I was still working I heard my local MS Society group had an exercise class and I went along. When I retired in 2018 I joined the committee and within six months I was asked to be their group coordinator.

Find your local group

I now have secondary progressive MS. I’ve been fortunate in a way that my MS isn’t very severe at the moment and I’ve not had a major relapse in some time. 

My walking is affected – I try to walk the dog every day but sometimes it’s just not possible. When I’m stressed I get the MS hug, which is awful. It’s the little things that get me at times. I can’t always get my earrings in, I can’t wear heels at all, I can’t run and I sadly can’t dance. But I try and concentrate on what I can do. 

Read more about how stress and anxiety impact MS

Good friends 

I’d be lost without the group, it’s given me such a focus and purpose since leaving work - I love keeping busy.

We’re such a supportive group, we have a laugh together.

I can sometimes feel embarrassed about my MS but not with others with the condition – we all know what it’s like, we understand. They’re not just members to me, they’re very good friends. 

Exercise and support

The exercise classes give me such a buzz. I leave each class on a real high and feel like I’ve done something good for myself. We host a weekly Tai Chi class online and anyone in Wales can attend. Other MS Society groups across Wales host different exercise classes each day of the week. It’s a great support for people.   

Read about MS and exercise

We get together as a group every month. It’s a chance to catch up with members, but we also sometimes have a game or a guest speaker.

We were delighted when the BBC asked us if they could film at our group, it’s been a privilege.

I hope it encourages more people to reach out to us and I hope it raises money for the MS Society.

Watch and support our BBC Lifeline Appeal

Watch our appeal on BBC iPlayer for the next three weeks. 

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Find out more on our BBC Lifeline Appeal page