Being a teenager can come with many challenges, especially when one of your parents has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Here, Katie shares what it was like to learn her mum had MS when she was 14 and why she chose to speak about the condition for her college project.
My name is Katie Morgan. I am currently studying journalism at Salford and my mum has MS. She was diagnosed about seven years ago, when I was 14, although they think she’s had it much longer.
At first, I didn’t know what MS was. It was not something I had ever heard of before. I remember my mother was completely numb on her left side and thought she was having a heart attack and was going to die. She went to the hospital where they did a brain scan and then about a week later they told her she had MS.
My mom and I are really close. Even though I’m in college, we talk to each other several times a day and we always text each other in the morning.
My mom discussed her diagnosis with us (me, my little sister and our grandparents) right away, as she hadn’t been feeling her best for a while and we were all very concerned. When she tried to explain MS to me, it took me several years to understand. At 14, it added an extra layer of worry to my teenage years, mostly because I didn’t understand it. I had a lot of questions like, ‘What is MS?’ ‘Is it like a long term illness?’ and ‘Is this something that could be sorted?’
I have since done more research and talked to other people about it, including people my age with MS, which has helped me learn more. The more I studied about MS, the more grateful I am for the progression there has been in terms of treatment and support over time.
My mom and I are really close. Even though I’m in college, we talk to each other several times a day and we always text each other in the morning. As soon as I can, I go home, and we spend all our time together. I love it. When I was younger, we weren’t as close, but by the time she was diagnosed with MS, we became much closer. I don’t know if it was something to do with it or if I was just reaching an age where I was starting to get closer to my mother.
We are lucky enough, as my mum’s MS is quite mild, it doesn’t seem to affect what she does much. Sometimes we can make plans, but then she can take a turn in the space of a few hours and be really exhausted, have a bad flare-up, or just don’t feel like going out. I’m okay with that because it’s been the norm for so long that it doesn’t really affect me that much. I prefer that she keep herself as best as she can. I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia three years ago, so I feel like this has given me some insight. In a way, we can relate to each other because we sometimes have similar symptoms and know what it’s like to have flare-ups.
For anyone who has a relative recently diagnosed with MS, I would say be there for them as much as possible, but don’t forget to be there for yourself.
Now that I’m at university, I’m doing my last big project on the subject of MS. I want to dispel some of the misconceptions and show that if you’re diagnosed with MS, it doesn’t have to be the end of your life. I know my mom was very lucky and there are other people who weren’t so lucky, but I also know people who are doing better than her. Multiple sclerosis can be complicated to understand and is completely different for everyone. So I hope to talk to a wide range of people, including some professionals, so that I can help others better understand the disease and learn about it myself as well.
For anyone who has a relative recently diagnosed with MS, I would say be there for them as much as possible, but don’t forget to be there for yourself. It’s not only going to impact their lives, but it’s going to impact yours as well, especially if you’re quite young, when you find out like me, when I was 14.
Ask lots of questions to learn, but remember that you are allowed to have days when you feel lots of different emotions. It’s okay to take a while to process it, because I think I’m still processing my mom’s diagnosis and it’s been seven years. As long as you’re there for them and trying to get your information from reputable sources, I think that’s the best thing you can do.