Jennifer was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was 36. Now, at 44 she is living independently in her own home and working part time, four days a week
Up to 2012, Jennifer was living in Sydney and running a successful Home Care business. However, for the last 2 years of this she started to notice that when she drove home at the end of each day, she would experience pins and needles up and down her spine when she tried to stretch her neck. After these symptoms were dismissed by her doctor as a disc problem in her back, Jennifer carried on with her life as normal.
She moved to Brisbane to be closer to her parents, who were experiencing their own health complications. Deciding on a change of pace career wise, Jennifer decided to pursue her passion for good food and entertaining. Unfortunately, her symptoms were gradually worsening over time and this all came to a head during the training period for her new position in a gourmet deli.
“I got up at 3am to catch the train to get into the city on time to start work at 6am and I lasted two hours. By the end of that two hours, I couldn’t stand up. The weakness in my lower back meant that I kept collapsing.” – Jennifer
She was sent home for the week to receive treatment. Unfortunately, Jennifer found herself in this same situation for four weeks in a row, after which point her soon-to-be new boss advised her that he was going to have to give her role to someone else. She understood the decision was for the best and over the coming months, her eyesight began to blur, she was running into walls and the continued muscle weakness in her back became increasingly worse and she became unable to stand for any period.
“The next thing I knew I had to move back in with Mum and Dad because I couldn’t stand up long enough to brush my teeth. Mum had to shower me, and do my hair, it was really scary.” – Jennifer
Throughout this time, because of the worsening symptoms, Jennifer had an appointment with a neurologist. After a long, grueling wait, she received the official diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. She was then required to spend two weeks in hospital receiving a steroid treatment and a further two weeks in rehabilitation, rebuilding her strength and learning to walk again.
This was a difficult time for the whole family, who had previously watched her Dad’s cousin pass away from Multiple Sclerosis. Their lack of knowledge about the disease made acceptance of it even more difficult.
“For a couple of years after I was diagnosed, I had a pity party. I felt really sad and sorry for myself, so I just sat there all sad and despondent.” – Jennifer
Hope for a cure saw Jennifer turn her life around. She re-skilled and completed two Diplomas, she bought her own home with help from her permanent disability payout and now works four days a week for Suncorp Insurance from the comfort of her own home, with hours that suit her lifestyle.
Having her own home provides Jennifer with a sense of security that she had never had before as a renter. It also allows her to live with the freedom to modify her home with what she needs, when she needs it as her condition progresses. The other benefit of her home is that Jennifer now lives around the corner from her parent’s house. Jennifer could not get through each day without her trusty feline friend, Ella who has been by her side for 15 years.
“In regards to my home, I have to pinch myself that it’s actually mine and that no one can kick me out. Having my own space has been unbelievable. I take pride in my home, and it’s my little piece of heaven.”
“Because my parents are getting older it’s so important to me to know that I can go around at any time. Or Mum can come over for a cup of tea or we go to the Mall together. Our lives are now so intertwined and our relationship and our bond has strengthened. It’s just wonderful.”
Jennifer has been working part time for almost a year now and explains that without support from the NDIS and Youngcare she wouldn’t have thought it was possible. Youngcare have proudly been able to provide her with two air conditioning machines, one in her bedroom and one in her living room. As someone with Multiple Sclerosis cannot easily regulate their body temperature, what seems like a small item, has actually improved Jennifer’s quality of life immensely.
The addition of the air conditioning allows Jennifer to get the rest that she needs, so that she is able to live her life the way that she wants to every day.
“Fatigue has a huge impact on my daily life. I couldn’t work if I didn’t get enough sleep, so if I didn’t have the air con in my bedroom, I wouldn’t be getting the sleep that I need. It has a huge knock on effect. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.” – Jennifer