FOR many, the letters MS stand for multiple sclerosis for an Invercargill woman it means “mighty strong”.
Julia Colhoun was diagnosed with the chronic condition 14 years ago, at the age of 20.
She was constantly feeling tired and one morning she woke up and noticed she could not see properly.
After many tests and doctors’ appointments, she got a diagnosis, but hearing the news was not easy.
“It was awful. I burst into tears because my mum’s aunty had it and she was in a wheelchair so that was the first thing I thought – wheelchair, s*it.”
However, Ms Colhoun decided it would not stop her living her life.
She had to adapt her lifestyle and learn about her frailties.
Her positive attitude and support from loved ones helped her cope well with her condition.
“I, like many others with MS, am faced with hurdles. Some of these hurdles I would describe as bigger than others, but that means I have to learn to jump higher.”
Ms Colhoun works as a teacher part-time, helps on the farm where she lives and exercises.
One of the biggest achievements in recent years was being able to walk again without the help of a walking stick or wheelchair.
“Today, I don’t use any of it. I am so proud of myself.
“I don’t know why exactly, I don’t know what it is but I think it’s because of my attitude.
“I’m really proud and happy, honestly, I still have my life and I still walk – not very far or fast, but I walk.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition involving the central nervous system. People diagnosed with MS have their immune system attacking the myelin, which is the protective layer around nerve fibres.
The Southland Multiple Sclerosis Society is highlighting its awareness week and promoting an appeal to raise funds for the work it does supporting people living with and supporting those with MS in their local communities.
Ms Colhoun believed it was important for the community to support this important work as many people were affected by it.
“I don’t know if everyone knows what MS is but it is something so common – especially in Southland. I’m sure a lot people know someone with it.”