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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
Living with multiple sclerosis
Cath Meredith
Cath and Dave Meredith have been living with MS for years
As part of our series into chronic conditions across Wales, the BBC news website profiles life with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Cath Meredith from Abergele, was diagnosed with MS in 1991 when she was in her early 30s with two young children.

The 49-year-old explained that she had been falling over and had several bouts of inflammation to the inner ear, as well as damage to her optic nerves that was causing her to strain her eyes.

Doctors looked back at her medical history and they deduced she had had MS - a degenerative disease of the central nervous system affecting around 85,000 people in the UK - for around 10 years.

And she said the little support she received after her diagnosis did little to ease the shock.

"I saw a consultant and they just said 'see a dietician on the way out'. There was nothing else," she said.

I did a lot of crying and wondering if the children would be affected and then I thought 'I will have to get on with it'

"I had to drive home and burst into tears when I told my husband.

"I did a lot of crying and wondering if the children would be affected and then I thought 'I will have to get on with it'."

"I am in a wheelchair, which I absolutely hate, but it gets me places - I have independence," she said, adding that her car had now been converted to hand controls.

"I have had to have a colostomy because my colon is not functioning properly. My life was curtailed as I couldn't plan to do anything."

She said having that operation had been a big mental blow, but once she had recovered from it, she found she had a great deal more freedom.

'Massive strain'

Husband Dave, 55, said his wife has relapses which can lead to further disability.

"Every time she has a relapse, she loses a percentage of her body movement," he said.

"It has been a massive burden, it has been a massive strain on the whole family."

He added that, as a carer, it was easy to become overprotective.

"The other day she was cutting a potato and I came over and said 'I'll do it'. I shouldn't have - I was taking over her independence.

"I love her to bits and you need to step back and give her some leeway. It is hard to strike a balance.

"A while ago she knocked herself out in the kitchen. She fell over like a felled tree and hit her head on the door."

When I do fall over, I have to ring someone to come and pick me up. When I'm down, that's it. I have no strength.
Cath Meredith

Mrs Meredith agreed it was difficult for her to know her limitations.

"I get occasional pain - I get spasms, swollen ankles and bad circulation," she said.

"Falling is not always on my mind. When I do fall over, I have to ring someone to come and pick me up. When I'm down, that's it. I have no strength.

"I still have to get over people talking loudly to me and asking questions over me, like my mind is deformed," she added.

Counselling course

Mrs Meredith said she did a counselling course when she realised that she would not be able to continue to do her job as a hospital medical secretary.

"It is a terrible situation when you are retired from work," she said.

"I am a people person and suddenly, why do I bother getting up in the morning?"

Looking back, she said her two children had dealt with the condition well.

"They were brought up with it - they knew mum falls over, or she can't cut up her food - they didn't know any different and adapt to it," she said.

"I couldn't go to watch them play football or go horse-riding, and I felt the children were missing out, but really it was me - I missed out."




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