Although I was not diagnosed until August 2007, looking back I realise I showed my first symptoms back in 2003, six months after the birth of my daughter. I began to notice a loss of power in my left arm.
As all new parents know, the sleepless nights can be rough but I now realise the kind of exhaustion I was feeling was far from normal.
Eventually I went to the doctor about my arm as by this stage I was finding it difficult to even hold a pen to write a or sign my name to anything.
I didn't mention the fact I was so tired as I figured he would just tell me all new mothers experience this.
He thought the problems with my arm were probably from my daughter's head pressing on a nerve while I was feeding her. I went home and forgot about it. Eventually my arm returned to normal.
In the next four years I had no other problems but regularly suffered from colds, gastroenteritis, and chest and throat infections. However, in June 2007 I noticed that the vision in my left eye became blurred.
Rather than go to the doctor I waited to see if it recovered on its own. I put up with it for about a week but it gradually got worse. At this stage I knew it was something to worry about. I went straight to Eye Casualty.
I was seen fairly quickly where various tests were carried out. They let me go home but by the next day it was considerably worse. If I covered my right eye and tried to use my left I could only see colour and could not make out what I was looking at.
After being seen in Eye Casualty they told me I would need an MRI. When I went back for the results, the consultant told me I had demyelination which was scarring and that my eye trouble was a thing called optic neuritis.
That afternoon I called to my mother's house not really having a clue what the consultant was talking about.
I remembered that there was a medical encyclopaedia on the book shelf in the sitting room and I figured I would look up the terms she had used.
My brother and his wife were there the same day and when I read the passage the words multiple sclerosis leapt off the page.
He was quick to tell me I should not be reading it in the first place as those type of books would make you think you have everything.
Normally I would agree with him but the minute I read the words I knew it was exactly what I had.
The world was spinning around me but I just put on a happy face and changed the subject, but in my head all I could think about was what I had read. I decided to keep it to myself until a consultant confirmed that this was exactly what I had.
The next week I had a lumbar puncture. I stayed overnight in hospital and went home with the words ringing in my ears that I would have to wait six weeks for the results.
To say it was the longest wait of my life is an understatement. I tried not to think too much about it, but it kept creeping in to my thoughts and how I kept behaving normally, I'll never know.
Before the six weeks were up, I began to have major issues with my balance. I would try to sit down and miss the seat completely, falling to the floor.
Then one day I was driving the car and found I was on the wrong side of the road and when I tried to correct myself I could sense a delayed reaction. It was like my brain was giving the correct instruction but my body was slow to respond.
I arrived home safely but it happened again as I tried to close the front door. My leg would not move out of the way. In the end I had to physically move it using my hands as it just would not do what I wanted. At this stage I knew I would have to go to the hospital.
I waited four days in hospital to be told what I knew was coming. I didn't really react when I was told as it was no surprise. I rang my partner Tony who was working nearby and told him what the consultant said.
When he came over he was deathly pale. He asked me if it was a terminal illness. I reassured him it wasn't and we went to find a doctor so he could find out more about it.
The doctor talked him through it. I was relieved to see the colour coming back to his face. The next few days were spent in a haze, telling those who needed to be told. I was sure to know the facts before I spoke to people. Most took it well, a few didn't. They were unable to cope with it. I lost them as friends but the most important people in my life stuck by me and supported me.
The hardest person to tell was my daughter as she was only four. It was hard to simplify it for her.
I did the best I could but at the time I was scared and frustrated. I spent so much time reassuring others but felt so alone and confused.
I basically shut down completely. Nobody understood what I was going through but looking back it was because I didn't communicate the way I was feeling and I became very withdrawn, moody and snappy. For about six months I just existed.
There was a horrible atmosphere at home and it was all down to me. I got in touch with the Cork branch of MS Ireland.
I went to a Newly Diagnosed Seminar and realised that I could live with this. I went to a Counsellor for a few months and finally expressed my feelings. Life changed from then on.
I began to become somewhat like the old me. I still have bad days, especially if I am tired and I sometimes lack energy which can be frustrating.
As a person with MS I have realised it's okay to ask for help. Communication with your loved ones is of the utmost importance because when you are diagnosed first you think its all about you, but they are living it too. I made minor adjustments to my life but in general I live a life without limitations.
I was very lucky to find a very good nutritionist called Catherine Kenneally who devised a healthy eating plan for me to help manage my MS.
This has helped greatly in managing fatigue, as this can be the hardest thing for me. I also started a new drug in March called Gilenya.
I am doing very well on this treatment. It is a big improvement on the previous treatment I was on, as it is a tablet rather than an injection.
Another thing I find helps me stay healthy is exercise. I do as much as I can when I can. It is also beneficial in managing fatigue as it improves my energy levels.
I have to admit, before being diagnosed with MS I did not know very much about it. As a child I did partake in the MS Readathon, although to be fair at the time I thought it was the Miss Readathon and it was something to do with pageants!
Nowadays I am a Readathon ambassador which means I actually go around to schools talking about MS.
This is very rewarding work and when a team of us go out to schools we get a great response.
It is important for the children to actually know what they are doing the Readathon for, what MS is and where their money goes. Tony and I also do Newly Diagnosed Seminars for the Cork Branch of MS Ireland, to help others coming to terms with their diagnosis.
The most important thing to know about MS is that it is not terminal. A diagnosis of MS does not necessarily mean you are going to end up in a wheelchair.
A positive attitude is important. Don't be too hard on yourself. Live your life as best you can. Communicate and do not be afraid to ask for help.
But most of all do not lose your sense of self. It took me a while to realise, but my self esteem and the esteem my family held me in never changed. I am still a mother, a partner, a daughter a sister, and more and I am still the same Karen to them now with MS as I was before.