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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 08:10 GMT
'How Mondays help me live with MS'
By Alistair Hignell
BBC Five Live commentator

For most sports commentators, the most important day of the week is Saturday. Or perhaps, given the way that kick-off times have been rescheduled for the benefit of television, Sunday. Or Friday. For me, it's Monday.

Alistair Hignell
Mondays are Alistair Hignell's 'recharging day'

Every week is dictated by what's happening at the end of it.

I know, for instance, that I will be commentating on England against Scotland at Twickenham next weekend for Radio Five Live and that there are five more internationals, three cup finals and a dozen or so Premiership games before the World Cup starts in September.

But the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) has dictated that for me what happens on Monday is equally important.

While MS - an incurable disease that afflicts 85,000 people in the UK - takes different forms for different people, one symptom that appears to be common to all is extreme fatigue.

Energy at times is like water in the desert - a precious commodity that must be conserved closely and used sparingly.

People with MS find that tasks that in the past that they would have taken in their stride are now fraught with difficulty.

Calculations constantly have to be made; every expenditure of energy is a trade-off.

If I do this action now - drive my car, put my rubbish out, mow my lawn, go for a walk, climb those stairs - how much energy will I have left to do my job?

No complaints

Mondays have become my re-charging day.

Every expenditure of energy is a trade-off

Every week, when I am in the country, I am driven - I had to give up driving myself two years ago because of fatigue - to the MS Treatment Centre in Nailsea, near Bristol.

Over the next four-and-a-half hours, I have physiotherapy, an aromatherapy massage and a spell in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

This combination of treatments I believe sets me up for what is to come.

Next week, for instance, I will be travelling to and from media briefings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, preparing from home on Friday, and commentating at Twickenham on Saturday.

The following week is identical - except that Italy will be England's opponents at the weekend.

I'm not complaining. I have a fantastic job, and I have incredible support from my wife, Jeannie, while my colleagues and friends constantly amaze me with their willingness to help.


I am lucky that, of all the incurable diseases to get, MS is one of the best.

All I need now, especially in World Cup year, is an upturn in England's fortunes!

It is very rarely life-threatening.

I am lucky also that, while my MS affects my limbs - my right leg does not do half the things I want it to do, and my right arm appears to be on go-slow - it does not, as it does for some people, affect the voice or the eyes.

My problems can therefore be managed; by using an electric buggy, by living in an apartment with no stairs and no garden, by a support worker who drives me around the country, by a speech recognition programme on my computer, by a further session of physio at Kinetic Fitness Studios in Bristol every Thursday and by my Monday re-charge at the Treatment Centre in Nailsea.

All these strategies are designed to make it physically possible to get to where I need to be.

As long as I can get into the commentary box, I can do my job.

All I need now, especially in World Cup year, is an upturn in England's fortunes!

  • Alastair's story will be featured in a documentary, Inside Out West, 26/01/07 at 7.30pm on BBC One in the BBC West region.

    Digital Satellite viewers can see the programme on channel 986.

    Multiple sclerosis
    05 Jun 06 |  Medical notes


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