My dear friend Justice Campbell looks like any other 20 (nearly 21) year old out there. She’s blonde, pretty, smart and so funny that some think she should have her own comedy show. Around two years ago, Justice started to experience pins and needles, tingling, numbness, migraines and fatigue that were all treated as being unrelated to one another. Then just over 12 months ago, something happened to tip the scales.
“In February, 2011, I travelled to Bali with a group of friends and about half way into the trip I noticed my vision in my left eye was blurry. It gradually decreased over the next week and by the time I returned to Australia I had no sight left in my left eye. After a trip to the optometrist I was sent straight to the emergency ward where I spent a week in a ward waiting for an answer,” Justice explained.
Her diagnosis was Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
There are many misconceptions surrounding MS, with many thinking that it only affects older people and that you will be in a wheelchair quickly, when in actual fact, you can’t tell by looking at Justice (and many other sufferers) that she has MS.
Justice wishes that people understood that having MS doesn’t mean you’ll be in a wheelchair, “Most people are diagnosed in their early 20s to mid 30s. Most of those people will be young, fit and healthy and won’t be in wheelchairs. We’re normal people living our lives, just with a few obstacles to overcome.”
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Australia Ltd website, the majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled with longitudinal studies showing that 50% of people with the disease are independently mobile 15 years after diagnosis.
The truth is that most people living with MS lead relatively normal lives; they just have to be aware of their limits as it’s a very unpredictable disease. Justice advises listening to your body and to figure out what it needs; “I can’t predict how I’m going to feel tomorrow; just because today is a good day doesn’t mean tomorrow will be. I just have to pace myself and listen to my body and do what it needs.”
While MS may not negatively impact on your day to day life, it’s still a shock and a diagnosis often leads to grieving. Justice summed it up nicely when she said this “It’s definitely a grieving process and it takes time to mourn the loss of your life as you knew it. I was sad for a long time, and I still have days where the sadness creeps in, because it is scary to have something like this that is so unpredictable and especially so young. I’m still frightened and I’m still sad, but I choose to believe that my life is only as normal as believe it to be, and if it’s normal it can’t be extraordinary and I’ve never been one to settle for ordinary.”
The key to surviving any illness or bumpy situation in life is having the support of family and friends and while Justice has had some great supporters, she’s also lost close friendships as well. “Most of the people in my life were supportive and understanding, but there were a select few who couldn’t cope with it and treated me differently. That’s where I view my MS as a blessing rather than a burden, because while they were painful lessons to learn; it has taught me who my true friends are and who I can rely on.”
MS symptoms vary from person to person with Justice suffering from the symptoms mentioned earlier as well as weakness, a severe intolerance to heat (making summer unbearable) and problems with her vision as a result of the Optic Neuritis she experienced while in Bali. Many people are unaware of the limits that are placed on someone suffering from MS when they appear to be fine.
This is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding MS, something that most sufferers would know all too well. Justice, along with friends Allana Bryan, Melanie Buscombe and Hannah Bourke started a committee that organised The MS Australia Dinner Ball, a benefit event in which all the proceeds will go to Multiple Sclerosis Australia Ltd towards research, community support, facilities, nurses and treatment.
Where: Wests New Lambton, Newcastle
When: Saturday 19th May at 6:30pm
Cost: $120 which includes a three course meal, all you can drink beer, wine and spirits and entertainment by local band ‘Sunday’s Record’
Where to buy: Tickets will be on sale from 12th March available for purchase at Wests New Lambton, Newcastle. You can buy individual tickets or a table (of 10).
For further information, search for the Facebook group “The Newcastle MS Ball”.
While I’m promoting the event for any MM readers in the Newcastle area, I understand this is a much larger community, and my main aim and the main aim of the Ball is to promote awareness and understanding of Multiple Sclerosis. For more information about MS, you can visit Multiple Sclerosis Australia’s website here and you can make a donation here if you wish.