'Treat me as a normal person'

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Living with disability - Susan - Leonard Cheshire

Living with disability

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just before I went to university.

But for many years, the condition was stable and I lead a fairly normal life. I decided to come and live at St Cecilias in Bromley, a Leonard Cheshire Disability service, about 4 years ago, when I was 55. I'm glad I did - I absolutely love the place.

I realised that it was becoming impossible to do normal things like cook for myself, wash and dry up. In fact, I think I've become quite lazy because the staff do everything for me now!

I have a bit of a shopping fetish so I love going to the local shopping centre. Generally, the access for disabled people is very good and the staff are really friendly and helpful.

The one thing I've noticed is that the cashpoints are very high up, which proves quite difficult for a little person like me in a wheelchair.

I find that if you're friendly and chatty, people will be chatty back.

When I'm out and about, I find that some people talk to the person pushing my wheelchair, rather than me. I think I'm quite approachable so I'll start talking to them. I may not be able to use my legs, but my brain still works. If people bend down to talk to me at my level it makes such a difference.

I do like to go on jaunts. I adore France and went to Paris on Eurostar. I was offered a first-class ticket and the staff put a ramp in my carriage so I could get on and off easily. It was wonderful.

Next year, I'm going on a Mediterranean cruise with two friends I used to go to school with. It's going to be fantastic.

I also help local primary school children with their reading, which I really enjoy. Some of them are quite cheeky to me, but they're much more open about disability.

If I could make people understand one thing, it would be to treat me as a normal person and forget about the wheelchair.
Susan Williats is 59 and lives in Bromley, Kent

- Find out more about Leonard Cheshire's Creature Discomforts campaign and the people behind it

Leonard Cheshire Disability supports more than 21,000 disabled people in the UK and works in 52 countries. For more information and support on living with disabilities, visit the Leonard Cheshire Disability website

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Leonard Cheshire Disability

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I was dx with R&R MS July 04 but suffered for 4 yrs before they realised what was wrong with me, 6 mri`s and 1 lumbar puncture, we found out. I have a wonderful neurologist and well lets say hes ready for me when i go see hhim as i go through everything 100 times to get it clear in my head i go usually armed with new treatments on the market -- why cant i have these??? -- im not bad enough yet...... I went to Blackpool last Aug with my local MS Support group, we were able to hire electric scooters and I got weird looks because my 72 yr old mother was walking beside me! shes healthier than I am! Im 39 with 2 kids aged 15 & 10, - fingers crossed - havent had a severe relapse in nearly 2 years. Yeah on the outside I look fine and healthy but hey dont know what my body feels like inside, when u need to sit and for a rest someone will say "y do u need a rest theres nothing wrong with you" thats the usual, we get fed up with people saying oh you look ok so you must be!! inside me is screaming for sleep but I have to get my kids dinners made i like to do as much as i possibly can and sometimes push through that screaming for rest only to find myself laid up for cple of weeks to rebuild my energy. sorry for rambling but when i start i cant stop. Janet

Frances Cheetham

I found this article inspiring. I too, have MS but am able to walk. I have the Relapsing Remitting type and was diagnosed in January this year (2007). I was devastated at first but have recovered quite well from a major relapse which left me unable to walk unaided for 6 months and unable to focus to read/write etc for 4 months. I am now injecting Rebif which is keeping me relapse free. My vision is 100% normal now and I only have to use my stick occasionally. I have a positive outlook on life and refuse to let MS rule it!!!

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