Multiple sclerosis sufferers welcome potential breakthrough

Trish Deykin loved her job as a crime scene investigator when she began to experience unexplained symptoms that increasingly interfered with her work.
Trish Deykin loved her job as a crime scene investigator when she began to experience unexplained symptoms that increasingly interfered with her work.
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Multiple sclerosis sufferers have welcomed a potential breakthrough in finding treatments for the devastating condition.

Trish Deykin loved her job as a crime scene investigator when she began to experience unexplained symptoms that increasingly interfered with her work.

She was 28 when she first encountered pins and needles which made touching water agony - a serious hindrance for the keen swimmer.

"At first, doctors told me it was all in my head. I knew it was physical, but at times I did feel that I was losing my mind," she said.

Soon the strange sensation was accompanied by agonising pain in her eyes.

"It felt like someone was constantly stabbing me in the eye," said Ms Deykin, from near Yelverton in West Devon.

"I had a lazy eye and I initially though it was part of that. I wasn't too worried."

Friends encouraged her to see specialists, and within a year, she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

By then, her symptoms were escalating, and included problems with memory and concentration, a leg that would involuntarily collapse without warning, poor dexterity and a burning sensation in her legs.

Ms Deykin had no choice but to take early retirement eight years after diagnosis at 36 and she moved back to Devon from Sussex to be near her family.

"I was absolutely gutted to retire - it was my dream job I'd worked so hard to get there," she said.

"But doctors told me that if I carried on working so hard, I'd be in wheelchair within six months. If I retired and took it easier, I could retain a better quality of life.

"It was a no-brainer but it was a big smack in the face for me."

Taking life at a slower pace has made a big difference.

"I feel my symptoms have levelled out now and I hope it stays that way. With MS, you never know what's around the corner," she said.

"I'm staying active with horse riding and swimming and enjoying life. I feel positive and I really welcome this new research.

"Finding a cause will help everyone who has MS - even if that's just knowing more about what's going on in their own brains."

When Claire Thackray suddenly went blind in one eye at the age of 25, she initially put it down to crying too much after a break-up.

Her vision was affected for a month, and medical investigations initially drew a blank - but within months, MS was identified as the cause.

"I was completely floored," said Ms Thackray, now 32, and from Taunton in Somerset.

"There's no history of MS in my family - it hadn't occurred to me at all. Initially I thought my life was over, and that I was on a downward spiral to disability and a wheelchair.

"Thankfully that hasn't been the case at all. I really welcome this new research - it's really important to move forward in our understanding about what goes on in the brain in people with MS."

Ms Thackray manages her symptoms through medication and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and has found that her symptoms have so far stabilised, with no further decline.

Her experience prompted her to re-prioritise her life. She left her job as a teacher and now works for Taunton Deane Borough council.

"I feel I'm one of the lucky ones," she said.

"I was diagnosed early enough to take measures to help me maintain a good lifestyle and work-life balance.

"I'm a fitness fan and I'm still physically active. Every day that I can see and walk is a good day for me."

She is inspired by Paralympic swimmer Stephanie Millward and writer and novelist Hilary Freeman.

Both have MS, and Ms Thackray is hoping they will both contribute to an upcoming book she has written about her experience, to help support people who receive a relapsing-remitting diagnosis.