A Convoy woman diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 27 says the disease has spurred her towards a healthier lifestyle.
Now aged 33, Lucinda Farrell spoke out as part of World MS Day 2019. The theme of this year’s campaign was visibility and encouraging those living with MS to speak out about their symptoms.
It was July 24 2013 when mum-of-one Lucinda was told she had MS, four months before her wedding day.
Her diagnosis came completely of the blue and, as she puts it, it “floored her”. Rather than curl up and become a victim to her illness though, Lucinda has met it head on. Today she regularly attends her gym, something she never did before. She has also just completed her first 10K run and is looking forward to her next big challenge.
“I was diagnosed on July 24 2013, a date I will never forget,” Lucinda told the Donegal News on World MS Day.
“That week I had been making tea a few times and the cups kept falling out of my hand. There was no explanation for it at all. The following week I was upstairs tidying the house when I tripped from the top step to the very bottom.
“A few days after that we were going to a Donegal game, they were playing Monaghan, and the whole right side of my face had gone numb. I let it linger on and we went on the match but it wasn’t getting any better. So I went to Letterkenny hospital and told them what was happening. They started doing blood tests and then decided I needed a CT scan because they were worried I had a bleed on the brain. The scan came back clear so they said they wanted to do an MRI scan on me. I would say in total I was in for ten days before the doctor came in and sat down on the bed beside me. I never thought for one second he was going to tell me I had MS.”
Shocked and stunned, Lucinda immediately feared the worst.
“All I knew about MS was a case where a woman had ended up in a wheelchair. I thought that was going to be me. As well as that I was getting married in a few months and all I could think was how can I ask this man to stay with me and look after me for the rest of my life. It was terrifying.”
Lucinda did get married and on the advice of her neurologist, she and her husband immediately began trying for a baby. By January she was pregnant and on October 8 little Amelia was born.
With the pregnancy over and Amelia healthy and happy, Lucinda was finally able to start treatment for her illness. It changed everything.
“I was on the drug Tysabri which I was getting through an IV drip and had to go to Sligo every four weeks to receive. I finished that treatment in February of this year and am now on injections which I give myself every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And shortly I will starting a different treatment again where I take a course of tablets for five days and then five weeks later I take another course and that is me for the year.”
Lucinda’s medication has allowed her to live as close to a normal life as she had before being told she had MS.
“At the start I didn’t cope at all. Between being told the news, getting married and getting pregnant, it took me a year to come to terms with things. But since Amelia was born and I went on the treatment, my life and my health have been great. I don’t let it get me down at all. As I always say, I have MS, MS doesn’t have me, that is my motto.”
Lucinda admits that she does have off days where she is not as physically able as she would like to be. But with a bouncing four-year-old, taking time out is not always an option.
“I’m getting on with things. I don’t let it bother me. I took up running in January and I did my first North West 10K last month. I’ve completed two 5K runs since that where before I would have done none of that. I also go to the gym three days a week. I push myself because there is no way I’m letting MS win. And that is my message to people, it is not the end of your life.”
Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive illness and Lucinda is under no illusions about where she might be in 30 years time. With advances in treatment being made all the time though, she is not dwelling on what the future might hold.
“I don’t think about it. I’m here now and I am dealing with what I have in front of me. I’ll deal with whatever comes my way and who knows where treatments will be in 30 years time.”
Supporting her on her journey has been the MS Society based in Ballybofey, a service Lucinda says has been invaluable in helping her fight her illness.
“They have been brilliant here. If I needed support or information, I come in and they help me. They do fund-raising events for people living with MS, if you need physio or that sort of thing, they can sort it out for you. They are a great, great help.”
If you would like to contact the MS Society in Donegal, the Regional Co-ordinator is Catherine Peoples. Catherine and her team are based at the Isaac Butt Building, Ballybofey, and the number is 07491 89027.