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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
The real face of multiple sclerosis
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Faye Roe and husband Matthew
Faye fronts the relationship aspect of MS campaign
Faye Roe's face and that of her husband Matthew have been seen by millions across Britain.

Despite the fact that Faye seldom goes out, her face can be seen staring out from billboards and tube carriages in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, London and Belfast as well as in a number of magazines.

In the advertisements, part of series in an awareness campaign by the MS Society, the young mother of two can be seen explaining about the effects of the neurological condition Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on sex.

"Sex brings on a major attack of the shakes.

"It's embarrassing and off-putting for both of us, but we can laugh about it now," are the words beneath her image.

Raising awareness

The words are not her own, but reflect some of the serious problems that many people with the same condition as Faye experience.

I should not be embarrassed of having MS through no fault of my own. I just wanted to raise awareness
Faye Roe

"My husband and I have a very healthy relationship, but I did the advert because a lot of people who suffer from those problems would not want to put their face on the campaign, because they are embarrassed.

"This is the biggest advert and the most controversial advert.

"For me it is showing that I am not embarrassed. I should not be embarrassed of having MS through no fault of my own. I just wanted to raise awareness.

"Because I don't go out much nobody has recognised me from the poster, but people have asked my mum and friends if it is me.

"I am proud of the campaign and taking part," she said.

And the former Miss Great Britain finalist and model, aged 22 and from Gloucester, says if more people understand the condition it will make life easier for people like her.

Faye admits though that despite fronting the campaign, she spends most of her time at home, with her husband and 18-month old twins Oakleigh and Leo, because she is embarrassed about some of the ways her MS affects her.

"We do not really go out much because I don't like the looks I get from people. If I am in a wheelchair, I don't get one look, but if I am walking with a stick people literally look down and point at me and I find it really hard.

"When I get stressed out my body goes stiff so my walking looks even more strange.

"So I want to make people more aware of the illness and have empathy rather than sitting and staring.

"I really want people to be aware of the everyday struggles, the physical and emotional pain that people with MS go through.

"I want people to stop being rude when they see someone like me staggering around and not to assume that I am drunk."

'Unpredictable and cruel'

Since she was diagnosed two years ago Faye has had two major relapses, one of which left her unable to walk and partially paralysed.

Although she is now recovered from these, she is aware the future is uncertain.

Faye, who has regular Beta Interferon injections to ease and reduce her relapses, says she has periods of depression, pain, and fatigue.

"I am doing quite well at the moment, but it is quite hard to live with it is so unpredictable and cruel.

"It does not just affect you it affects all your family and friends."

There are more than 85,000 people with MS in the UK and 50 new diagnoses a week, with two to three times more women affected than men.

Dan Inward
Dan's employers have adapted his job

There is no cure and few effective treatments.

Simon Gillespie of the Multiple Sclerosis Society said their "Putting the pieces together" campaign aimed to heighten awareness with its hard hitting adverts.

"People with MS are more likely to see their relationships fail, to lose their jobs, or find themselves isolated as their symptoms push friends away."

He said they had decided that the best way to illustrate the campaign was to feature real people with MS themselves.

"There's no point using models and artificial language when you are dealing with such a devastating condition," he said.

The other adverts include baker Dan Inward, whose employers have helped him adapt his job to his condition, and competitive hammer thrower Janet Smith, who still competes and trains, despite her MS.

Over the years the MS Society interviewed its members who said that the key concerns for people under 40 were relationships, work and socialising.

They also hope the campaign, their first in a decade, will raise their own profile and that of the condition.

Future adverts will look at family life and the role of carers.

Alasdair Coles, a neurologist at the Department of Neurology, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said it was important to raise the profile of multiple sclerosis.

"Did you know that, if you see a young disabled adult, it is most likely that they have multiple sclerosis?

"But despite it being so common, most people only have the vaguest notion of what the disease is."

SEE ALSO
Stem cells trial for MS patients
26 Sep 07 |  Bristol/Somerset
Multiple sclerosis hormone link
17 Jan 05 |  Health
MS risk 'linked to birth month'
07 Dec 04 |  Health
Child-death stress linked to MS
09 Mar 04 |  Health

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