Histon woman speaks about life with multiple sclerosis to raise awareness of the condition
A woman from Histon has spoken about her battle with multiple sclerosis (MS) in a bid to raise awareness of the “invisible condition”.
Lara Kingsman, 48, was diagnosed with MS two years ago after she woke up one morning and could not feel her body.
Back in 2017, part-time music teacher Lara was very active. She was running and cycling regularly, and working as a Zumba instructor.
“There was a lot of tingling and numbness and my first assumption was that I had it from a run the day before, which made me feel really uncomfortable. It felt like I was being plugged into an electric current.”
Mother-of-three Lara went to an osteopath who recommended she see her GP. But when her symptoms persisted, Lara decided to go to the hospital.
After an MRI scan of her brain and spine and a lumber puncture, she was given the devastating diagnosis.
“Over the last two years I’ve had to give up all my running and aerobic activity which I have found really hard,” says Lara. “You realise what you can’t do anymore, and because I use exercise to get my endorphins it really affected my mental health.”
MS includes scarring and damage to the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, thought to be caused by the immune system attacking the nerve coating. Some of the more common symptoms include fatigue, stumbling, numbness and eyesight problems. In severe cases, sufferers can become paralysed or blind.
Those with the condition can have unexpected relapses and, while there are some treatments to combat symptoms, there is no cure.
“MS just hurts overall – but it especially hurts my feet with too much bouncing,” she said.
“My main symptoms are fatigue and a tingling in my foot.
“Overall, fatigue is another thing I find really hard to deal with. The fatigue you have is just unbelievable, and when it’s bad, no one can really describe what that’s like.
“I once managed to go downstairs where I poured myself some cereal and, as I was lifting a spoon, I realised I didn’t even have the energy to eat. It’s really tough mentally.”
But not many people are aware of the disease and what it means, something Lara wants to change.
She explained: “Just because someone doesn’t look unwell, it doesn’t mean they are not unwell. There are just all sorts of invisible conditions and a lot of people say you look great, but internally you might be in a lot of pain such as having cognitive fog – a thing where you can’t think properly.”
Lara also highlighted the problems many MS suffers face as a result of government cuts to disability benefits.
It is estimated that around 16,600 MS sufferers will lose out on personal independence payment (PIP) support because of the government’s 20-metre rule – a policy that bans anyone who can ‘safely’ walk 20 metres from receiving the higher rate of mobility support.
But the symptoms of MS mean many people with the condition are unable to work. “You can become unreliable with symptoms going go up and down,” explained Lara.
“Going on benefits while having MS has so many nightmares with so many austerity measures being put in place.”
A recent survey conducted by the MS Trust highlighted the positive impact exercise can have on the condition, with respondents listing improvements in their mental health, increased strength and reduction in fatigue.
This MS Awareness Week (April 22-28), the trust is calling on people with MS to introduce a little activity into their lives
Lara has taken up yoga and pilates, which she finds really helps with her balance. She also walks her friend’s dogs.
“MS Awareness Week is really important,” Lara, who praises the support of the MS Trust, explains. “It brings light to these unseen illnesses that people don’t necessarily see on a day-to-day basis.
“I’m very lucky because I’m still mobile and I’m not in constant
pain every day, but I’m aware I have a degenerative illness and I’m aware
of a time where that constant pain may happen.”