Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY UNA BRANKIN

GROUND-break­ing news about med­i­cal ad­vances in the treat­ment of mul­ti­ple sclero­sis will be an­nounced at an event in Belfast to­day.

Around 4,500 peo­ple in North­ern Ire­land suf­fer from MS, a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion that af­fects the brain and spinal cord.

Among those who are hop­ing to hear of life-sav­ing drug regimes at the Liv­ing with MS event at the Crowne Plaza at Shaw’s Bridge is Colin Good­man.

The 32-year-old graphic de­sign­er­wasshocked­when­hewas di­ag­nosed ear­lier this year.

The fa­ther-of-three thought he was sim­ply run-down from over­work when he started feel­ing tired and get­ting dou­ble vi­sion in the pe­riph­ery of his right eye.

But af­ter his bal­ance was im­paired while play­ing foot­ball, he went for an eye test and was re- ferred to a neu­rol­o­gist. He ex­plained: “I went on to ‘Doc­tor’ Google while I was wait­ing for the ap­point­ment and re­alised it could be MS, although I didn’t be­lieve it.

“The neu­rol­o­gist sent me for an MRI.

“I was scared — all I could think of was my wife’s un­cle, who had it three years ago. There was noth­ing they could do for him.”

A con­di­tion of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, MS is un­pre­dictable and dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one. Symp­toms usu­ally start in the 20s and 30s.

Colin’s arose two years ago af­ter the birth of his and wife Rachel’s twins Eli­jah and Ja­cob, now three. The cou­ple, who live on Belfast’s Saint­field Road, also have a five-year-old son Zachariah.

While Colin was wait­ing for his MRI re­sults, he de­cided to change his life­style rad­i­cally by eat­ing healthily and get­ting more sleep.

“I felt so much bet­ter that I was con­vinced I hadn’t MS, so it came as a com­plete shock when the doc­tor con­firmed that I had le­sions in my brain,” he said. “I have re­mit­ting re­laps­ing MS — it’s ab­so­lutely hor­ri­ble to be told that, but he ex­plained that it was caught early and it’s not ag­gres­sive.

“I was put on two Tec­fidera tablets a day. One of the side-ef­fects is itch­i­ness, a prickly heat, and there’s a bit of fa­tigue.

“Another side-ef­fect is stress. I can’t cope with the boys scream­ing all at once. I need to take my­self away and re­lax for a while.”

Like Colin, Ni­cola An­drews (32) suf­fers from re­mit­ting re­laps­ing MS, but man­ages to work full-time for the chil­dren’s arts and crafts sup­plier Play Re­source.

She said tired­ness was the big­gest is­sue she faced.

“I was di­ag­nosed in 2014 and MRIs have shown that I have new le­sions on my brain and spine, but, so far, I am not do­ing too bad,” she said. “I have had a few episodes of brain fog — the MS hug — and pins and nee­dles in my legs and pains that come and go in my right side.

“But the big­gest thing that af­fects me is fa­tigue — you can be so tired that you can’t chew food, string a sen­tence to­gether or even re­mem­ber what day it is — it’s the most hor­ri­ble feel­ing in the world.”

Ni­cola lives in New­town­abbey with hus­band Robert, who runs Magic Man high-end re­pairs. Her first symp­toms — pins and nee­dles and numb­ness — emerged at 21, but re­ceded.

“Each MS suf­ferer is like a snowflake, each one com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the other,” she added.

“I may be fine now, but next year I could be telling a dif­fer­ent story. Who knows?

“That’s why events like Liv­ing with MS are so en­cour­ag­ing — they pro­vide good in­for­ma­tion on the re­search into new treat­ments.”

MS is a life­long con­di­tion but treat­ments and spe­cial­ists can help man­age the con­di­tion and its symp­toms.

The cause is un­known and there is no cure as yet, but re­search is pro­gress­ing fast.

The free-en­try Liv­ing with MS in­for­ma­tion con­fer­ence is at the Crowne Plaza to­day.

The event runs from 10am to 3pm.

It was such a shock when the doc­tor said that I had le­sions in my brain


MS suf­fer­ers Colin Good­man and (be­low) Ni­cola An­drews

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