Mary, a busy mum, now lives with MS – after her diagnosis, she reinvented herself.
Published on 01 June 2022
Mary Abbey is a busy mum who lives with Multiple Sclerosis. After her diagnosis, she took control to reinvent herself and now works to support and connect others with MS.
When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed with MS three years ago, but I’ve had it since 2007. I had my first attack then, but I was a busy mum of five kids. When I went to the doctor I was just flagged as a tired mum. By the time I was diagnosed, I had gone from Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) to Primary progressive MS (PPMS).
How does MS impact your day-to-day life?
MS has impacted my daily life from the onset. I had a finance brokering company and worked in finance since 2004. I specialised in preventing homelessness, mostly with women, but I also helped men. I would work with women who were coming out of divorces or separations. I would work with women’s groups and lawyers so that the women could keep their houses.
My MS impacted my cognitive thinking, so I struggled with numbers, I had significant fatigue and, in the end, I had to stop work. I lost feeling in my hand and legs and would ache all over. MS blurred by days and ended my career. My career was a huge part of my identity.
I was running a company, studying, raising kids, and I had to stop. My life changed. I had no idea who I was, so I reinvented myself and got involved with MS Limited.
What services have you used with MS Limited?
When I was first diagnosed, I contacted the MS nurses to familiarise myself with MS, I have also used the NDIS assistance through MS, and I am now on the MS Community Engagement Committee in the ACT and a Peer Support Leader. I also access a number of online resources to research the condition.
Now I’m trying to create social support in the ACT so we can connect and do activities together. I do group exercises classes, hydrotherapy, personal training – my health has become by job, my mental health too. Getting out and socialising, and this committee has become a huge part of my life. MS can be very debilitating and isolating, but with people around you who understand we can focus on creating a bit of joy for people with MS.
What advice would you give to someone who has recently been diagnosed with MS?
I totally relate to the fear, I understand the physical feelings; they are scary, confusing and a bit of a roller coaster. It’s very difficult to have a chronic illness, but it comes with a silver lining – you meet new people, and really learn what’s important in your life.
I would also tell them to push themselves, to try new things and new therapies, keep social and involved with life. It is really important, even if you feel you cannot.
It is a very misunderstood illness because you do not look ill. You can feel wretched, wear nice clothes, do your hair, paint your face, and look wonderful. That’s why you need to create the connections with people who understand.
What does the future look like for you?
I am focusing on my health, new therapies, and working on keeping the abilities I have. I am researching and experiencing new things, involving my family and travel. I am learning keyboard and painting to help with my cognitive thinking. I enjoy those sorts of things and expanding my horizons. I am driven by the need to maintain my quality of life.
I also hope to be more involved with the MS Community Engagement Committee, and structuring experiences for people. I’m pretty good at networking and bringing people together.