I thought I had pulled a muscle from too much dancing – but after half my body went number I learnt I was suffering from multiple sclerosis

A YOUNG woman living with Multiple Sclerosis has told how the debilitating disease has made her a ‘warrior’.

Jenny Mangan, from Dublin, was diagnosed with MS at 23 after experiencing pain and numbness along her body.

She explained: “I had just done a year in musical theatre college and did six shows in the space of nine months, which involved a lot of dancing.

“I thought I had twisted something or pulled a muscle or just worn myself out.”

But the pain worsened until she went completely numb down the right side of her body.

Doctors and physiotherapists couldn’t give her answers until, in desperation, Jenny went to A&E in Tallaght.

She said: “I was in so much pain. Ibuprofen wasn’t making it go away, Panadol wasn’t making it go away and then being numb is quite frightening.

“I had no idea what it was, nobody could tell me what was wrong with me and it didn’t seem to be going away. It wasn’t getting any better.”

Jenny was kept in for a week and then was given the life-changing diagnosis.

She said: “I don’t think I believed it for a long time.

"The only people I knew who had MS were in wheelchairs and they are quite progressed.

"That is all I knew of the disease. The instant picture I had.”

After her diagnosis Jenny began medication, but didn’t improve.

She said: “For me, the first year was very, very tough and I relapsed quite a lot.

“The worst relapse I had was when, again, I went numb but this time from the waist down.

"The entire half of my body was completely numb.

“It was very emotionally draining. A lot of the tests, and things you have to go through, are tough.”

After a new MRI, and new lesions were found, Jenny’s medication was changed. Since then her health has remained stable.

She said: “Everything started to calm down and thankfully in the last year I have actually been quite well.

“My MRIs are stable, I have no more lesions which means the medication is working.

“The hope is that that continues for the rest of my life.”

But Jenny told how she still can have bad days saying: “I still get quite a lot of pain that can make simple things difficult like getting in and out of a car or picking up something.

“Physically I have bad days, and mentally I have bad days."

She continued: "It’s something life-changing, a diagnosis I will have forever.

"It’s the unknown really. I have no idea how it is going to affect me in the future and that is what is really frightening.”

What is MS?

MULTIPLE Sclerosis is a disease of the brain and the spinal cord.

The central nervous system acts like a switchboard sending electrical messages along the nerves to various parts of the body.

These electrical messages instruct the body to perform various tasks, such as movement or thought.

Most healthy fibres are insulated by myelin, a fatty substance which aids the flow of messages.

With MS, the myelin breaks down or becomes scarred. This distorts or even blocks the flow of messages, resulting in the many symptoms of MS.

Many people explain MS like a faulty electrical flex on a kettle. If the insulating flex breaks, it exposes the wires underneath making them more vulnerable to damage.

Symptoms include reduced mobility — often the most visually apparent.

Other symptoms such as fatigue, changes in sensation, memory, and concentration problems are often ‘hidden’ and can be difficult to explain to others.

But Jenny says having the disease has surprisingly been the making of her.

She said: “Warrior, that’s been my word. I am a warrior, I am brave, I am strong. You don’t know how strong you are until you don’t have a choice but to find out.”

For those who may be newly diagnosed, Jenny advises: “Stay strong. It’s awful and it’s a horrible thing to have to come to terms with.

“But, at the same time, I just wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t happened.

“And I am 100 per cent a better person than I was two years ago. You just have to stay strong and positive.”

Jenny is sharing her story to support the Help Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign, which was launched at Heuston Station in Dublin last month by TV presenter Lisa Cannon, Rosie McCormack, who lives with MS, and Irish Rail’s Kevin Naughton.

Support the Help Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign by texting KISS to 50300 to donate €4 or contact kissgoodbyetoms.ie.

We previously told how a mum-of-five was diagnosed with a golfball-sized brain tumour "after doctors told her it was just the menopause".

And a nurse discovered her "depression" – blamed on hormones – was actually a deadly brain tumour when she blacked out at the wheel.

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