Beatrice Hann knew all too well what was happening to her when she started with symptoms of multiple sclerosis 10 years ago.
The then 23-year-old was learning about the condition as part of her degree in Physiotherapy at Kings College, London.
For a year she experienced sensory symptoms including electric shocks that went from her neck to the middle of her spine and reduced feeling in her limbs. She had what she would later realise were relapses but then got better gradually.
During this time her GP referred her to a neurologist who advised that her condition indicated MS but wasn’t conclusive. However, the following year Beatrice experienced another flare up which affected her ability to walk. This time, the neurologist booked Beatrice into hospital for a lumber puncture and an MRI scan, as well as a course of IV steroids.
“At this point there was no doubt in my mind that I had MS but when the diagnosis was given my boyfriend (now my husband), Jonathan almost passed out. I think people underestimate how much it can affect those who care for you.”
After the diagnosis Beatrice, now 33, was placed on Rebif (beta interferon), a disease modifying drug injected three times a week used to reduce the frequency of relapses. The treatment worked well and allowed Beatrice to keep on her feet, with only two relapses a year.
When she moved to Harrogate from London, her neurologist in Leeds advised that it would be worth trying something new, so Beatrice started taking Copaxone which allowed her to be relapse-free for a year. However, Beatrice came off her medication in order to try for a baby.
“Ordinarily, pregnancy reduces relapses for women but I wasn’t so lucky – I had two during my pregnancy – both of which affected by vision, meaning I couldn’t drive – and two afterwards, one when my daughter was six months and one when she was nine months, so it was a very difficult time for me. However, after I’d finished breastfeeding I was able to take a tablet version of steroids and then have an IV course of steroids to allow me to fully recover.
“In 2008, I went to MS Life (a lifestyle event for people with MS) in Manchester, and was able to find out about pregnancy and managing MS symptoms which was fantastic and helped me to adjust when the time came for me.”
Since having her daughter Eleanor, Beatrice is now on a daily injection of Copaxone which is allowing her to manage her symptoms and she largely works around her daughter. “I do suffer from fatigue, so generally when my daughter sleeps, so do I.” Beatrice has also set up Harrogate YUMS, a support group for young people with MS which meets on the first Wednesday of every month in the evening.
“The MS Society has been fantastic in supporting my own group – we have received funding to help us get together and promote the fact that we’re here to help and support those that are specifically diagnosed with MS at an early stage in life.”