It’s World MS Day today. Not exactly a celebration, but an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding about this baffling condition, as well as raise some much needed funds for the various national organisations. There’s approximately 2.3 million people around the world with MS; looking at the World MS Day website, it’s amazing how many organisations are involved.
There are a number of fabulous MS organisations in the UK offering a whole range of information, raise funds for medical research and provide social support. For the UK, World MS Day is supported by the MS Society. I recently volunteered with my local group, and just happen to have attended a volunteer forum today for an update about what is happening locally and nationally, plus learn more about the role I’ve undertaken.
When I was first diagnosed with MS last year, I was torn between wanting to meet some other MS’ers and never meet anyone else. Eventually, I met up with a lovely friend’s husband who lives with MS. I realised that it actually helped to talk to someone else who has direct experience and knows immediately what you’re dealing with. Friends and family are amazingly supportive (and I am so grateful for their love) but ultimately don’t really ‘get it’ (and thank goodness for that!). Then in September last year, filled with great trepidation, my hubby and I went along to MS Life, a big exhibition held by the MS Society at the Excel Centre in London. Neither of us were sure about it, but actually it was really worth the trip. Not only did we get lots of useful information, and some freebies, I left with a desire to join my local group.
But it turned out my timing was seriously off! After some hunting, it came to light the local group had folded and there was nothing going on. In my quest, I ended up meeting up with the area volunteer co-ordinator, and, of course, because I can’t help myself, ended up agreeing to be the local person to provide support and information (exactly what I’d been looking for in the first place!). I’ve always found that in helping someone else, I help myself.
Meeting up with volunteers from the other groups today made me realise how much grass-roots help is out there. With a dedicated team, and no doubt a lot of time, there’s a whole range of activities from traditional coffee mornings to pub visits, seasonal socials and monthly activities, exercise classes and fundraising and a whole host more. But not just for people with MS but the people who have to live with them. It also made me realise how little I know about what’s available through the national organisation too, but there’s plenty of time to learn that!
So, on World MS Day, I feel truly grateful for all the local, national and international organisations that help raise funds and awareness, lobby governments, fight for rights and just offer a helping hand and some friendly support and advice for 2.3 million MS snowflakes like me. We may all be different, but we don’t need to be alone.