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"I might have MS but MS doesn't have me"

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Larissa Thomas

Larissa Thomas was diagnosed with MS in July last year. Here she talks tattoos, smiling through the pain and why she’s determined to make the best of things.

I was diagnosed with MS in July 2016 after going numb from the waist down and suffering with leg spasms, making it really difficult to walk. I was admitted to hospital and got my diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS. Previously I had recurrent transverse myelitis, blurry version, stiffness and weakness in my legs, more lesions were found on my brain hence the new diagnosis of MS.

After having various tests, I decided the best DMT for me was Aubagio (teriflunomide). I had to train my body back to health with physiotherapy and I still had some issues with senses, spasms and numbness, but nothing compared to what it was previously like. I take medication on a daily basis, and everything in my life has changed. From having issues with my short term memory to suffering with panic disorder, anxiety and episodes of depression. But one of the worst symptoms is fatigue. Being tired all the time sucks especially when you want to do things. It feels like doing a marathon on a daily basis; your body uses energy up faster than anything else.

I've had a lot change in a short period of time, but the biggest change was taking a step back from my job in events. However, I decided to stay strong. I finished my degree and now I am studying events photography, combining my passions of people and photography.

When something like this happens, you realise who is really there for you. I count myself really lucky to have an amazing supportive family, the best boyfriend, and most importantly friends who understand what I am going through. I try to surround myself with positive people and take things slowly, as it takes time to heal and get used to the changes. When you’re first told you have MS you’ll feel so overwhelmed, and at first it didn’t feel real to me. So don’t put pressure on your shoulders and keep an open mind about your choices. My advice is always speak up, even when you don't feel like talking, because people aren't going to know what's going on in your head or the pain you’re in if you don't tell them that you’re not okay. There’s no point hiding away in a shell, it’s better to be open and honest.

The main thing for me is making people aware of what MS is. People can’t see it, so they don't understand and they judge or question. This was one of the reasons my dad and I had matching tattoos of the MS ribbon. I added the word smile underneath to remind myself to always smile through pain. No matter how hard things get there is always a reason to smile every day. My nan has secondary progressive Ms, so it is all the more important for me to raise awareness.

My MS isn't a death sentence. It's a part of who you are, but it makes you a stronger human because you don’t take the simple things in life for granted and you understand pain. I am young and still full of life, so I try to make the best of every situation. I might have MS but MS doesn't have me.

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