I started to experience symptoms of MS in early 1999 at the age of 26. These took the form of several episodes of pins and needles in my feet and fingers which continued for months. For some time both I and my general practitioner thought little of what I was experiencing. In October 1999, however, my vision began to become blurred so I was swiftly referred on to an ophthalmologist and then a neurologist.
After numerous tests, including an MRI scan and a lumbar puncture, I finally learned I had MS, in August 2000. Hearing the diagnosis from an unsympathetic registrar, I was stunned by the news. I had little idea what MS was, let alone what its long-term implications could be. This was despite the fact that I come from a medical family: my mother is an anaesthetist, my father a dentist and my sister a general practitioner.
While devastated by the diagnosis, I determined I would carry on life as normal. I had just finished my legal training and was about to begin my first solicitor job. Prescribed a course of steroids for two months to help ameliorate my optic neuritis, an eye condition, within a month of my diagnosis, in September 2000, I had moved into a flat of my own in Kent and started working. The medicine, however, only improved my eyesight for a short period. In November 2000, 3 months after I had started my job, I experienced severe problems. Walking to work I suddenly discovered that all the cars and signs around me, as well as the kerb at my feet, had become blurred. A new course of steroids did little to alleviate the problem and I began struggle to walk straight. This forced me to take sick leave from my new job.
By January 2001, I had begun to develop aching limbs and flu-like symptoms. My condition had become so bad that I was unable to even climb stairs. Soon I was forced to return to living with my parents in Suffolk. Back at my parent's home, I continued to deteriorate. Not only did I feel exhausted, whenever I tried to move my feet they shook uncontrollably so I had to use two walking sticks and a wheelchair. I became so crippled that I could no longer stand in a shower and required my mother's help to wash. I experienced no improvement in my condition after I was admitted to St Thomas' hospital, in February 2001, to receive steroids intravenously.
My symptoms began to abate in March 2001 after I was prescribed steroids by a consultant at West Suffolk Hospital. Nonetheless, by May my legs had become stiff and I was again experiencing problems with my balance and eyes. Two months later I was referred to Addenbrooke's Hospital to be cared for by Compston and his team. By this stage, my condition had deteriorated so much that I could not walk without some form of assistance. Unable to gain access to a clinical trial, which at this moment in time was the chief route for patients to receive Campath-1H, I was to be given the drug a compassionate use scheme. Initially, the treatment gave me a rash and made me feel washed out, but I soon noticed an improvement in my symptoms. By October 2001, within two months of having received treatment, I was able to take up part-time work for the Legal Services Commission in Cambridge and a year later, by September 2002, was back to full-time work, this time working at a magistrate's court in Ipswich.
About a year after my initial treatment, I was given another dose of Campath-1H to prevent relapse. Thereafter, my health continued to stabilise and, despite some tiredness, was able to lead a normal life. In October 2012, I received another course of the drug as a result of a relapse, which happened just after the getting married and moving to Cyprus for my husband's work. Once again the treatment enabled me to resume my normal life and I was able to take up pursuits such as sailing. In 2008, I gave birth to my child and from then on I felt fine. I suffered another relapse in December 2010 so was treated again with Campath-1H in May 2011.
Without Campath-1H, I believe that I would never have been able to work, let alone become a mother. I see myself as one of the lucky ones. I was fortunate to receive Campath-1H at just the right moment in time. I would never have gained access to it had my MS been in a more progressive stage or had I not been referred to Addenbrooke's Hospital when I was.