MS won't slow me down, says runner who was taken ill before wedding
JUST four week before she was due to take her wedding vows in May 2011, Jennifer Merritt suddenly went numb from the waist down.
By October and after persisting symptoms – mostly odd uncomfortable sensations – the then 26-year-old was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, throwing her life off course.
Now, the business analyst at Nationwide has gone through remission and even though she could be struck by an attack at any time in the future, she strives to put her fears aside each day and instead spends her time much more productively.
Jennifer, 28, who took up running in 2012 and has since taken part in every race in the region, will join thousands of challengers at the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday, March 2 in aid of the MS Trust.
She remembered the onset of her first and only attack.
“I went for a dress fitting in London and started feeling hypersensitive on my chest and back and got constant static there,” said Jennifer, of Common Platt.
“I almost fainted. I went back home and a couple of days later it was still there.
“On the Sunday morning I woke up and I had gone numb from the waist down. I didn’t have any reflexes, nothing was happening. I thought ‘it’s going to go to my heart, I’m going to die’; it was a strange sensation. I had a nauseous feeling and I felt tired.”
She underwent a battery of tests but they all came back negative.
Despite all the stress and ‘the shadow looming’ over what should have the most joyful her day of her life, Jennifer and Robert got married.
“It receded but on the day of the wedding my leg was still patchy under my right knee. We went on our honeymoon in St Lucia and I had really odd sensations on the palm of my hands. Just before my birthday in July I saw my neurologist at GWH. She told me that she was quite confident that it was MS but I didn’t believe it.”
In October the diagnosis was confirmed.
People suffering from relapse and remitting MS experience distinct attacks of symptoms which then fade away either partially or completely. Around 85 per cent of those with MS are diagnosed with this strand of the disease.
For the next three months she lived in utter denial of her condition. She became so exhausted that she had to take some time off work but after some time, her husband Robert, 33, encouraged to go out in the fresh air and run or walk.
This was the beginning of her journey to recovery and of her newfound love of charity running.
“I was quite numb to it all,” she added. “I had a couple of days where I cried a lot and drank a lot and smoked a lot. But I was really in denial for about two or three months.
“It was quite difficult, we had just got married and we had just got that thing wedged into our life. I probably have recovered about 99 per cent. Statistically the likelihood of me having an attack in my life is very high but it could also not happen again.
“It has been quite a journey.
“I have fears or potentially having to walk with a crutch or walking stick but they are just fears. Most of the time when I look in the future I see happiness and I see a family.”
Running became a way not only to give herself focus but allow her to remain at the top of her form in case of a new attack.
Since October 2012, she has competed in the Swindon Half Marathon British 10k in London and Chippenham Half among others.
The Bath Half Marathon will be her warm-up to the London Marathon this summer.
Jennifer has raise £4,200 for the MS trust so far.
To sponsor her visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JenniferMerritt.
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