Sunday, May 30: World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day
A positive attitude and a positive mind can help you reach your goals, and living proof of that is Susan Carey from The Spa, Tralee.
Susan was just 14 when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) back in 2004; she was the youngest person in Ireland to be diagnosed at the time.
Thought it has been a difficult road at times, Susan, now 31, has ensured that her diagnosis had not dictated how her life unfolded, and now she is on hand to help other MS sufferers remember that MS is not the end of the road.
"Don't let circumstances dictate your life. You are more than a diagnosis. Don't let it rule your life," says Susan.
Her message to other MS sufferers ahead of World MS day on May 30 is: "You can do anything."
Susan brings her experience to MS sufferers in Kerry though her exercise and meditation classes with MS support groups in the county.
Exercise is what helped Susan regain control of her life after her diagnosis, and having seen first-hand the benefits exercise has reaped for her, she shares her experience with others through Susan Carey Mind and Body Coaching, which she set up during the pandemic having taken a leap of faith and left her office job to do so.
Susan is no stranger to taking leaps of faith given she underwent a drug trial back in her early 20s to help with MS - a decision that changed her life and has ensured that she no longer has to take any medication for MS though, like all MS sufferers, she does have symptoms such as 'foot drop' which means she walks with a limp as her foot turns in.
"After years of different medications and a gradual decline in my walking ability, I finally received a trial drug that was used to treat leukaemia. Although this treatment was tough on my system, I have never looked back. I thought myself how to walk independently again and slowly regained my zest for life," explains Susan.
Susan had always been an active child and teenager, but MS changed that.
"I was involved in sports such as basketball and golf from a young age," she said. "I first noticed symptoms of double vision whilst playing. Then, within a couple of years, I had to stop playing sport due to weakness in my lower limb and vision. In hindsight, this was a massive loss for me and severely impacted peer interaction and my self-worth.
"After treatment, I found an outlet to manage my emotions and physical abilities in the gym. At first, I had to scale machine to machine, taking one step up the stairs at a time, but then as I got stronger and my confidence started to build, I fell in love with exercise and how powerful it made me feel. I found a variety of ways to tailor my workout to suit my needs living with MS."
This is what Susan now wants to share with others.
"There are no limitation in the gym," she said. "Everyone can go to the gym. I can't run or jump high, but there are so many ways to do things."
Susan's story is one that'll resonate with many MS sufferers across Kerry and Ireland. There are 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland, and the aim of World MS day is to build connections for those who live with the neurological condition every single day and who have particularly suffered during the pandemic.
MS Ireland has launched a Virtual Balloon Race through which it is hoped to have 9,000 virtual balloons, one for each person in Ireland living with MS, released on the morning of May 30.
In Kerry there are three support groups for people with MS in Tralee/West Kerry, North Kerry and MS South Kerry. Susan says reaching out for help is key to overcoming any fears you have and learning to live with MS.
Anyone with MS in Kerry can contact Siobhan Lynch Community Officer. Her mobile number is (087) 266 3489, or email email@example.com. She will help contact the relevant branch and provide advice and support.