A local woman says having multiple sclerosis has made her “a better person”.
Kerrie Jamieson was just 19 when a routine trip to the optician eventually led to her getting the devastating news that she had MS, a neurological condition that affects the nerves.
Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world and Kerrie is one of more than 11,000 people in the country with the disease.
The Scottish Multiple Sclerosis Register’s annual report for 2017 — released last week — shows there were 363 people newly diagnosed with the condition in Tayside between 2010 and 2016 — a rate of 12.58 per 100,000 people and the second-highest of any health board region in Scotland.
Kerrie, 30, a hair and beauty student, said she wants people in her position to know that the disease “is not a life sentence”.
She said: “I’d had two major symptoms, so that’s when it was decided to test me for a range of diseases.
“Eventually, they had ruled out almost everything other than MS, so I think I knew was what it was.
“But when they told me ‘it’s MS’, as much as I was prepared for the diagnosis, it was still really traumatising when I had it confirmed.
“I started thinking about the future, about being in a wheelchair. I was only 21 and I felt lost. I started to worry about the future, about how I would care for my children.”
Kerrie’s symptoms include chronic pain — which varies in severity — and fatigue.
She added: “I was pregnant with my son not long after the diagnosis and we decided to have our children and then I could concentrate on my health. I think (my husband) Colin took the diagnosis worse than I did. He worries about doing too much.
“I started college four weeks ago and the staff have been great. They are very accommodating. NHS Tayside has been fantastic too. I get regular injections and they were happy to move them to a Thursday, so I could go to college. And the MS nurses are there anytime I need help.
“When I decided to go to college, it was because I didn’t want to let MS rule my life. There’s no point in being negative. If you do, you will push yourself into a wheelchair quicker.”
Kerrie, of Brechin, said MS has made her daughter Morgan, nine, and son Kyron, seven, more compassionate.
She added: “I think it’s made them realise that there are a lot of diverse people out there with different lives. Living with a disabled parent has made them more compassionate and helpful. And I feel more empathetic to other people. My advice to someone diagnosed would be to stay positive — it’s not a life sentence if you don’t make it one. You need to take it as an opportunity. You learn so much more about emotions, compassion and diversity. It’s made me a better person in the way I view the world.”
Kitty Tait, 56, was diagnosed in 2006 with MS.
Since then, the former nurse has become a full-time wheelchair user.
Kitty, from Forfar, also praised the support she receives from NHS Tayside’s MS nurses and added: “I had numbness in my feet and it deteriorated from there. I was on my feet all day at work, so it wasn’t good. It’s changed my life completely.
“I used to be a nurse and now I’m in a wheelchair 24/7. I think maybe I find it easier, having been a nurse. I knew where to go to get help.
“The MS nurses do a great job.”