I was in my first year of teaching when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I knew life would never be the same, but desperately wanted to keep working.
It was New Year’s Day when I woke with pins and needles in my hand. I didn’t think much of it at first, but two days later my hand had seized up and I couldn’t even hold a pen. The day after that, I was struggling to walk in a straight line. I saw the GP and was admitted to hospital for a series of tests. By this time, I couldn’t even feed or dress myself.
The consultant neurologist was blunt in his delivery of my diagnosis. “It’s clearly multiple sclerosis (MS). You should follow a different career – you won’t be able to be a teacher.”
MS is an auto-immune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord – there is currently no known cure. My life was going to change, and my mind was filled with questions. Was I going to end up in a wheelchair? Should I give up teaching, even though I was only in my NQT year? Then I became defiant. There were surely other teachers who had similar conditions. I realised, despite the stress of the job, I did still want to be a teacher. What I didn’t want was to let MS dictate my choices in life.
After physiotherapy and steroids, I regained most of my mobility and went back to school on a reduced timetable. I shared my news with the head of my department, senior leadership team and a few colleagues but made the decision not to go public with my diagnosis.
I’m proud of myself for not giving up. But finding a school with a more welcoming and inclusive culture was, without a doubt, also a huge factor in my decision to stay in teaching for longer. Teachers give so much of themselves to the job, and we need all leaders to be ready to provide assistance when we’re having difficulties, whatever they may be. .
I knew that I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives and be a teacher they would remember, and I’m glad I stayed. I now do 10K runs for charity and my latest MRI scan showed no sign of the disease progressing. At this moment in time, I’m considered too well for treatment. I can scarcely believe how far I’ve come.