Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 09:54 UK

Danny Wallace: "I've learned to live with MS"

By Helen Briggs
Health reporter, BBC News


"It was a relief when the doctor said I had MS"

His face lights up when he talks about football.

From recalling his glory days at Manchester United, and the goal he scored for England, to more lately, watching his six-year-old grandson showing great promise on the pitch.

But these days Danny Wallace doesn't get to cheer on his team from the stands as often as he'd like.

His battle against multiple sclerosis makes simple tasks like getting dressed a daily struggle.

"I'll have spasms in the morning that really hurt," he explains. "It takes me half an hour to get dressed. It can get really really bad some days."

Yet his illness has not stopped him from pushing himself to the limits. One year, he walked the London Marathon from start to finish.

"Walking it was a joy," he explains. "It was such a great way of getting me out and doing things. The support I got from people was absolutely brilliant. Even though I was laid up for a couple of days after the marathon, it was well worth it."

Even at the height of Wallace's career, when he was playing for Manchester United, he was starting to experience niggling symptoms of a disease that would rob him of his beloved sport.

Symptoms include double or blurred vision, numbness or tingling in any part of the body, and tiredness
MS is the most common neurological disorder among young adults, affecting 85,000 people in the UK
It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors

He took a long time to recover from injuries, and was spending more and more time in the treatment rooms.

Some time later, when he was playing for Birmingham City, he started getting pins and needles in his fingers and feet.

He says it was a relief to finally get a diagnosis.

"I was more relieved than anything when the doctor told me I had multiple sclerosis, which is kind of strange really," he recalls.

"But then I thought back and thought yes, that must have been the cause for me getting all these niggling injuries.

"And I suppose a couple of weeks after that I realised that my footballing career was over, and I would not be able to play football anymore."

Eventually, after a few years of what he describes as being in "a really dark area", he started to come to terms with his condition. He now spends his time looking after his family and raising money for research into MS.

He is currently appearing in a series of national advertisements for the MS Society, which aim to raise awareness of the condition.

He says he too has experienced first hand the myths and misconceptions surrounding MS.

"I have been out with friends in a social situation and people have presumed I was drunk," he says. "I might have had a few drinks but I certainly wasn't drunk. It made me feel disappointed in people - that they could just presume that that's the case, but I suppose they weren't to know."

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