‘Dar­ing to be­lieve in a brighter fu­ture is THE FIRST STEP’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Gh Spotlight -

As a former BBC De­fence Cor­re­spon­dent, Caro­line Wy­att draws on the lessons she’s learnt from oth­ers in des­per­ate sit­u­a­tions to help her face the on­go­ing bat­tle she has with her health

Ilanded my dream job when I started at the BBC as a trainee in Jan­uary 1991. Soon after, I was di­ag­nosed with repet­i­tive strain in­jury when my fin­gers, hands and arms went numb. I didn’t re­alise at the time I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the first symp­toms of mul­ti­ple sclero­sis.

For two decades, re­port­ing for the BBC took me from liv­ing in Ger­many, Rus­sia and France to cov­er­ing wars in Kosovo, Chech­nya, Afghanistan and the Mid­dle East. I met moth­ers, fathers and chil­dren who had lost their homes, their pos­ses­sions, and their loved ones, yet man­aged to sur­vive, and look to the fu­ture with hope. There were the Bri­tish ser­vice­men and women in Hel­mand and Basra who faced the risk of death with sangfroid, and a quiet, no-non­sense tough­ness. At the mil­i­tary re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre, the joke among sin­gle am­putees was that they’d suf­fered ‘a scratch’. To me, that gal­lows hu­mour stands for a pe­cu­liarly Bri­tish form of re­silience. Mean­while, my own health was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. I tried to ig­nore it and carry on do­ing the job I loved. But by the Summer of 2015, the fa­tigue, brain fog and numb­ness in my legs had be­come too dis­abling to ig­nore. A brain scan fol­lowed, and by Christ­mas that year, I re­ceived a de­fin­i­tive di­ag­no­sis of re­laps­ing-re­mit­ting MS. It was con­fir­ma­tion of the se­cret fears that I’d buried in a sealed box at the back of my mind, marked ‘do not open’.

Not long after be­gin­ning drug treat­ment, a re­lapse left me in bed for sev­eral weeks. My voice be­came so hoarse I could no longer broad­cast, my brain so foggy I could barely think, my legs so heavy it was hard to walk. I felt the ill­ness was en­gulf­ing my very self. I re­alised then I had to fo­cus on my health – ur­gently.

For the first time, I chan­nelled my jour­nal­is­tic in­stinct in­wards, throw­ing my flag­ging en­ergy into re­search on the lat­est treat­ments. I was de­ter­mined to find out how best to save my abil­ity to walk and think, and re­gain my fu­ture.

Last New Year’s Eve, I trav­elled to a clinic in Mex­ico for what’s known as a hematopoi­etic stem cell trans­plan­ta­tion (HSCT) for MS. It is thought to stop dis­ease pro­gres­sion in as many as 75% of MS pa­tients and, in some cases, even re­verses some of the dam­age. I am still in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion phase, and it is prov­ing more chal­leng­ing than the treat­ment it­self. On bad days, I have to re­mind my­self that to­mor­row may well be bet­ter, and if not to­mor­row, then the day after. But let­ting go of my lengthy to-do lists and the con­stant drive to achieve has proved both heal­ing and lib­er­at­ing.

I’ve re­alised the im­por­tance of grat­i­tude, and fo­cus­ing on what I have, rather than on what I may have lost. Though I can no longer do my old job that meant so much to me, I am lucky to have a lov­ing family, loyal friends, a home, fan­tas­tic col­leagues and a sup­port­ive boss.

Telling the tragedies of oth­ers for so many years showed me that even at the worst of times, it is how you view your sit­u­a­tion that mat­ters most. De­spair breeds fur­ther de­spair; and while hope might some­times be per­ceived as fool­ish, dar­ing to be­lieve in a brighter fu­ture is the first step to­wards achiev­ing it.

I’ve re­alised the im­por­tance of fo­cus­ing on what I have, rather than on what I may have lost

Caro­line: ‘It’s how you view your sit­u­a­tion that mat­ters’

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