"I've got MS, but it'll never have me"

Lorraine isn't going to let MS stop her from living the life she wants

Lorraine first came to Thistle with her son Mathew, supporting him to plan for his future through the InterAct project. ‘It was amazing,’ she says, ’everyone was so warm and friendly, and it helped Mathew to find his path.’ InterAct supports young people leaving special schools to plan for their future with their family and friends, as well as volunteers from Thistle. ‘With the confidence Mathew gained from the project he went on to cut his hair for charity, get a job, go to college – he used to be in the house all of the time, but now he’s hardly ever there!’ laughs Lorraine. ‘But when the project finished and Mathew seemed to find his path, I started thinking – “what about mine?” I realised I needed a big plan too,’ she says, ‘so I joined a Lifestyle Management course at Thistle.’

Around this time Lorraine was diagnosed with MS. ‘I knew something was wrong,’ she says, ‘and waiting for the diagnosis made me just as anxious as finding out what it was.’ Lifestyle Management courses support people to develop tools to cope with long term conditions and difficult life situations, but that’s not all: ‘I’m a single mother and have brought up a child with autism on my own – I have coping strategies,’ explains Lorraine, ‘but what I got from the course was a social life – I met a group of people and we supported each other. And it was similar to the Big Plan in lots of ways – it helped me to work out what I wanted to do.’

A self-confessed ‘gym bunny’ before her illness, Lorraine started on the Exercise-based Lifestyle course soon after the first 10 week Lifestyle course was complete. ‘I liked this course the best,’ she says, ‘I got to get back into the gym and start doing exercise which just made me feel great.’ Previously she had been a member of bigger, commercial gyms but had stopped attending due to her condition. ‘I would never go to one of those gyms now,’ she says. ’Let’s be honest, gyms are full of posers – and I wouldn’t feel comfortable. Thistle is different. People with all different abilities go there and there’s no judgement,’ she says, before adding, ‘and at £25 a year it’s the cheapest gym in the world!’

As well as using the gym Lorraine now volunteers in it on a Monday afternoon, supporting an exercise class. ‘I help get things set up, I time each circuit, if I see someone needs a bit of help to use some equipment then I let Chris [Thistle’s Gym Supervisor] know,’ she says. ‘It’s fantastic – I look forward to it and it gives me a sense of purpose.’ A few weeks ago Lorraine couldn’t volunteer and when she returned the next week everyone had missed her, ‘everyone was asking where I’d been – it was lovely to think they’d noticed I wasn’t there – and had missed me!’

It’s been two years since Lorraine first came to Thistle and while her condition has made visiting harder, she refuses to let it stop her. She has plans to keep volunteering well into the future and to rise to any challenges ahead. ‘I’ve got MS,’ Lorraine says, ‘but it will never have me.’

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