Artwork for multiple sclerosis
Smile. Strength. Laugh.
These are the words multiple sclerosis sufferer Claire Read wants to show the world.
They appear in her artwork on display at the Art for MS exhibition at the Aotea Centre this month.
The exhibition follows MS Awareness Week, which began on Monday and runs until Sunday, and the organisation’s annual appeal today and tomorrow.
The exhibition will showcase art by people with MS and those affected by it.
MS is an incurable autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system.
Claire hopes it will draw attention to the disease which affects almost 3000 New Zealanders.
She says painting the letters was very tricky because her hands get tired but she was determined to enter after missing out last year.
“It didn’t matter how hard it was, I was definitely going to enter something.”
She now plans to create an artwork for Auckland University, where she is studying for a post-graduate diploma in psychology.
She gave up full-time work as an accountant last year and is loving her return to study.
“I decided to take some time out to see what pushed my buttons.”
Claire was diagnosed with MS in 1999, just before she turned 40, and now has the secondary progressive form of the disease.
experiencing symptoms of unusual sensations in her limbs for the first time was “really quite scary”.
She lives with her two daughters aged 10 and 20 and says they have been her main support as she has progressed from using a walk- ing cane, to a walker and now usually a wheelchair.
There are no funded treatments available apart from diet and exercise choices and Claire has been vegan for two years.
It is hardest on her youngest daughter, she says, because it is difficult to get involved with school activities.
“To be there is quite a difficult task because it usually means going to school in a wheelchair.”
She says small things like having lunch with friends are challenging and require a lot of thought and planning.
Through the Auckland MS Society Claire has met friends but she says it’s easy to get isolated because “it is just such a mission to go anywhere”.
MS Society marketing and fundraising coordinator Nicola Garland says many people don’t realise the early age MS strikes people.
Many people develop the disease in their late 20s and early 30s.
“It’s not about a 50 year-old in a wheelchair, it’s about people cut down in the prime of their lives,” she says.
She says another common misunderstanding is how differently people can be affected by the disease, with some progressing fast and others much slower over many years.
“Every single person’s MS journey will be totally different.”
She says the aim of the awareness week is to show that MS isn’t all bad news.
“People can still live a rewarding life.”
Donations can be made to street collectors or by calling 0900 YES 2 MS.
Changing perceptions: Claire Read hopes to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis through her artwork.