I started work in MS Ireland in October 2011 and it was a steep learning curve. Daily, I am privileged to work alongside our Board, staff, Branches, volunteers, and fundraisers. Every one of us is working together and independently towards our mission - To enable and empower people affected by MS to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential.
One of my favourite quotes – one I reflect upon often - is by John Wesley:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
In this job, I am blessed to meet people that give so much to the world we live in. They are selfless, empowering, engaging, and inspirational.
One of these groups of people is the MS and Me blog team. Ten years ago, we worked together to create a group of people with MS and affected by MS who would write about their lives, share their experiences and insights on a wide range of topics. From symptoms to relationships, keeping your brain active, exercise, peer support and much more they write about it all!
For me as the Chief Executive, it was important to listen to what people with MS have to say and to hear people’s raw stories of what life is like living with MS. Reading the blogs changes the way I think about my role and the work we do. The bloggers have, over this past decade, powerfully and honestly opened their world of living with the disease.
They are committed to telling their triumphs but don’t shy away from talking about their difficulties and even their occasional failures. The MS & Me helps other people with MS by giving words and a voice to their experiences.
It helps me understand life from another person’s lived experience.
As many of the bloggers have written about, MS & Me helps them to, as one blogger put it, “tackle the ugliness of a neurodegenerative illness like MS.”
We begin every MS Ireland Board meeting with a case study. These can be an anonymised piece about a person with MS working with one of our Community Workers, or we often begin with one of the MS and Me blogs which touches our mission closely.
Starting Board meetings with these reflections ensures everyone around the table is reminded of why we do what we do and encourages us to do our jobs better.
Over these past ten years, I got to know many of our bloggers and know that they often write about a topic that is most incredibly difficult for them. These writers have gone through their ups and downs but are consistently willing to dig deep and bare their hearts and souls as they know how much all the entire MS community appreciates this honesty and openness.
A huge number of people I have met in my travels around the country for MS Ireland share how helpful the blogs have been to them, their partners, their daughters, sons, mums, dads, friends.... So trusted and helpful are the writings in these pages that our staff will often direct people to a particular blog post as they know how important it can be for a person with MS to read the words and experiences of another person who shares the condition.
As we mark this tremendous achievement - reaching a decade of the MS & Me blog and the people with multiple sclerosis who write it - I hope you will join me in thanking all those who have contributed to their community – our community - and I hope we all can read and learn from our future bloggers as this platform continues to serve people with MS and their families.
Ava Battles, CEO