Hard work job hunting with MS
When Marlene Hessing was struck down with multiple sclerosis, leaving her high-pressured career hit her hard.
The central city resident says adjusting to life with the disease was tough enough but struggling to find part-time work after having to step down from a position she had held for 15 years was a shock.
‘‘Before then every morning I had somewhere to go and something to do.
‘‘All my life I have been a responsible person so when all that is taken away it’s really hard.
‘‘That routine and that responsibility were the things that kept me going,’’ she says.
Multiple sclerosis (MS), which attacks the nervous system, causes symptoms including fatigue, loss of balance and muscle weakness.
About 1000 people in Auckland are living with the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis Auckland chief executive Therese Russel says while attitudes towards employing someone with MS are improving there is still a long way to go.
‘‘It’s still very much damned if you do, damned don’t.
‘‘A lot of people who do disclose the disease can sometimes end up paying for that disclosure.’’
Within two years of diagnosis a person is likely to have changed jobs, Russel says.
‘‘But I’ve started to notice an increase in the number of employers ringing up for help about what they can do to make their working environment a safer and better place for an employee with MS.’’
Ignorance about the disease is the main barrier, Russel says. you’re if you
Hessing was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago at the age of 34.
After suffering three major relapses in quick succession in 2012 she was confined to a wheelchair and had to undergo months of gruelling rehabilitation.
‘‘I was really absolutely desperate at that time because I didn’t want to live with all these disabilities – I was the mainstay for my children,’’ she says.
Hessing was no longer able to work fulltime so in the end she made the decision to step down from her job.
A year-long search for part-time work with no offers was demoralising, she says.
It was at that point that Hessing’s 28-year-old son stepped in to help her set up an online tea sampling business, which she now runs part-time.
‘‘I feel normal again and that is the thing that I think most people, when they get sick, they just want to feel normal again,’’ Hessing says.
‘‘For me it’s important that, yes, I have this condition but now I’m moving forward and seeing what’s out there and this is manageable for me.’’
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand has created a guide for employers about the disease.
Marlene Hessing says she found it difficult to find work after her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. She has set up an online tea sampling business.