What my ‘Friendmily’ thinks about my MS

This week Christina McDonald reflects on family, friendship, love and Harry Potter!

Back in 2016, I ended up in Beaumont Hospital because I was having some unusual symptoms (which would eventually lead to my MS diagnosis). My body kept moving in ways I didn’t want it to. I’d be walking along then BAM! my arm would swing up and my leg would turn in at the same time and I’d be left feeling paralysed and unable to move.

The neurologist told me it was tonic spasms, a type of movement disorder. I was in Beaumont for one week and had all the tests done. My siblings and partner came rushing up to the city, they all thought I’d be a mess because I am the sensitive one in my family. Instead, they found me being my usual self.

The thing is, I would have been an emotional mess if something happened one of them but because it was me getting a diagnosis, I knew I could handle it.

At the time, my best friend Niamh and her boyfriend Sean had just moved to Toronto. We FaceTimed a lot and, even though she wasn’t physically here with me, she always asked how I was and wanted to learn more about MS. When they arrived back home after two years, I learned just how supportive they were. I remember going to meet them and having a massive panic attack and they were both so supportive and reassured me until I felt calm again.

I really think my wife is my biggest fan. She always reminds me that I am not MS and that I can still do whatever I put my mind to. I have had a super busy year. I got married in November and the last year has been the toughest year I have ever faced. In September, my Mam had a fall and sustained an acquired brain injury. She was in a coma for six weeks and underwent major brain surgery. On a happier note, she survived and is recovering well. My partner and siblings were so supportive. They knew the toll all the emotional stress of my Mam being so ill was taking me and my MS. I wasn’t eating, I was staying in the hospital with her for up to 10 hours a day and not sleeping. My younger sister Shauna put myself and my partner up in her house because she lives close to Dublin. She made sure I was eating and I’m so glad I had my siblings there for me because I really wasn’t looking after myself.

My older sister Sarah organised my Hen Party. She arranged us to go to the Harry Potter pop-up bar in Dublin. I’ve been a Potter fan since I was 8 so really lapped it up. We didn’t go too mad and all the girls looked after me. Sarah understands what it means to have an invisible illness, because her daughter has cystic fibrosis. If I’m having a bad fatigue day or brain fog, she knows what it’s like for me because her daughter has a lot of invisible symptoms too.

I have been diagnosed with MS more than three years and still, I feel so much support from my friends. My old pals from school are so supportive and understand if I cancel (which I do a lot). I’ve gained new friends from the MS & Me blog and I’ve probably lost some friends since being diagnosed. But my truest friends have stuck by me, giving me support and understanding. My friends Niamh and Katie have been there for me through it all. My MS was really acting up the week of the wedding. I’ve never used the toilet more in my life and had trouble with my feet but the morning of the wedding, I had my two sisters and best friend to look after me and help me through it. My wedding day was amazing and, although tough because my Mam and Dad couldn’t be there, my siblings and friends made it so much easier. I didn’t shed a tear, I even laughed all through the ceremony.

As I married Siobhan, my bestest friend that day, I realised how lucky was I to have such an amazing ‘friendmily’. These people look at me and see Christina, a person with MS, a strong person who is capable of anything. They don’t judge me, they encourage me. They don’t mock me, they support me and if I don’t say it often enough, I love each and every one of them for loving me through it all.

Follow Christina on https://whenyouresmyelin.com/