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Nicola

Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: Her mum was diagnosed with MS when Nicola was a young teenager. They lived together through Nicola’s teenage years. They live in separate towns now and see each other about once a month.
Background: Nicola is 32 and works in the NHS as a psychotherapist. She is white British and lives with her partner. They have no children.

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Nicola was 11 or 12 years old when her mum was diagnosed with MS, after having symptoms for some time. Her parents separated a year or two after the diagnosis and Nicola went to live with her mum, while her brother stayed with their dad. When Nicola was 15 she moved with her mum, whose mobility had declined, into sheltered accommodation, with an on-site warden who could be called on for help if needed. While she found it a little strange living among predominantly older people, Nicola’s recollection of this home is that it was nice. She did not feel comfortable, though, taking her friend’s home and recalls feelings of embarrassment when her mum attended parents evenings in her wheelchair.

Nicola left home to go to university at the age of 18 and, after university, lived abroad for a few years, teaching English. She lives in a different town, now, from her mum and sees her about once a month. Nicola talks with gratitude of the way her mum always encouraged her to do what she wanted and not feel that she should restrict her activities on her mum’s behalf. Nicola now works as a psychotherapist and observes that some clients with health anxiety express great fear of getting MS. From her perspective, participating in and observing her mum’s life, Nicola considers MS not to be as catastrophic as these clients imagine.

Nicola describes her mum as outgoing, fun, sociable and young for her 60 years. Although she now needs to use a wheelchair to get around, Nicola sees her continuing to have an active life, with many friends and with the help of paid carers. Nicola foresees a future in which her mum, eventually, is likely to need more support and that she will need to be closely involved in helping her mum to live the life she wants.

Nicola encourages people who have a relative with MS not to feel guilty about living their own life and to look after their own health and wellbeing. She thinks people with MS would not want people close to them experience guilt feelings and that, if you are not strong, healthy and happy, then your capacity to give support will be impaired.
 

Nicola remembers many incidents, including a car accident when her mum couldn’t feel the pedals. She went on to have problems with walking, speaking and seeing.

Nicola remembers many incidents, including a car accident when her mum couldn’t feel the pedals. She went on to have problems with walking, speaking and seeing.

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I remember quite a few incidents. Because I was about, I think I was about 11 or 12 when mum was diagnosed and I’d just started at a new school, so it was all quite, I was quite nervous about making friends and, you know, getting on with the other children and stuff. And I remember a couple of incidents. One of them was when she, what she first started to experience was kind of numbness in her left, I think it was her left side, her left leg, so, no, sorry, her right, sorry, her right, no, so when she was driving she couldn’t feel the pedals and so we had a car accident one day. It was when we were coming away from the school, and so that caused quite a bit of drama. 

So, so that’s one of the things, kind of the things I remember about first thinking, “Well, something, you know, something’s not right and mum’s obviously not well.” And she started to limp a little bit. And I remember going on holidays and she couldn’t walk very far because it would be, it would be quite hard work for her. And then I think she had one relapse that was quite bad and she went into hospital. And she lost, I remember she couldn’t speak very well and I think her eye, her eyesight went a bit funny as well. All down one side became, became quite paralysed. And I remember one of the teachers…I was at school, when one of the teachers came in to the classroom and said, “Oh, oh, Nicola, you must, you must come and, and see, come, your mum’s been admitted to hospital.” And the teachers were all really sympathetic and looked after me. So that, that has quite a strong memory for me actually. 
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