“You can’t let life get the better of you”

    Twelve years ago Southland's Julia Colhoun was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but she has not let that stand in the way of taking on various challenges.

    By Logan Savory

    JULIA Colhoun was 20 when she received a life-changing phone call.

    While studying in Dunedin to become a teacher she struggled to stay awake in class.

    The energy seemed to had been zapped out of her. Her mind flashed back to a period when she had glandular fever as to may be why she was feeling like that.

    But after some tests she fielded that phone call from a doctor – and he had a message which initially prompted anger.

    Ms Colhoun had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease which attacks the central nervous system.

    Multiple sclerosis has affected both sides of her family, but skipped a generation before she found herself in her own battle with the disease.

    It’s a disease which many simply shorten to MS, but for her MS stands for something else.

    “Mighty strong,” she said when providing her own version of the acronym.

    Twelve years on from the diagnoses, Ms Colhoun continues to flood her life with positivity and a can-do attitude to ensure she battled through the tough times.

    “You can’t let life get the better of you, you have to challenge yourself,” she said.

    The latest challenge was a trip to Outward Bound last month, an adventure which the 32-year-old said many thought she was “nuts” for taking on.

    Julia Colhoun takes on a ropes course as part
    of the Outward Bound course she took part in last month.

    Outward Bound is a course in the Marlborough Sounds which challenges people both mentally and physically.

    Ms Colhoun had been to Outward Bound during her school days, but when she returned for a second time there was an obvious difference.

    The course involved aspects which tested the most able people, let alone those who had multiple sclerosis to contend with.

    Ms Colhoun found herself sailing, tramping, and climbing ropes courses.

    The determined Southlander admitted she cried quite a little during the eight-day trip, a trip which was shared with eight other people who had their own differing battles in life.

    The tears flowed when Ms Colhoun felt frustrated and ready to give in. But tears of joy also flowed when she completed an activity.

    “Everyone was amazing, everyone was so supportive,” she said about the others in the group and the various instructors.

    “I’ve made life-long friends from it. Everyone should do it, it is great.”

    Ms Colhoun said bits of the course had stuck with her, including her morning routine.

    The day would start with a cold dip in the sea. She believed it was a good way to wake up and her instructor suggested she replicate it at home in the morning by jumping in the shower before it had warmed up.

    She now swears by the cold zap as part of her morning routine.

    The Outward Bound experience came about when Rachel Hucklebridge from the Southland MS Society spotted a scholarship opportunity.

    The Southland MS Society helps people who are living with the disease.

    Ms Hucklebridge got on the phone and without any hesitation Ms Colhoun put her name forward to head to Outward Bound.

    Ms Hucklebridge said it was great such opportunities were available, but added she was more inspired by the fact Ms Colhoun was prepared to take on the challenge.

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