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Jemma Barsby is one of Australia's top young cricketers. She also happens to have MS.

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Jemma Barsby is 22 years old. She first played cricket for Queensland at 15, and for her country at 16. Today, the all-rounder (who can bowl with both hands!) is one of the most talked about players in the Women’s Big Bash League, and is set to return to play for the Brisbane Heat this summer.

She also happens to have Multiple Sclerosis.

Barsby was just 20 when she was given her diagnosis. After a weekend bowling at a training camp for the Australian Southern Stars, she was sent off for scans on a sore shoulder. Strain, she thought. Just a little shock to the body.

“At the time I didn’t think it could be anything too serious,” Barsby told Mamamia. “But I remember the day clearly, going into to see our team doctor. The first thing she said was, ‘We’re still going to be friends, right?'”

M.S. is a progressive disease of the central nervous system, that has no known cause or cure. It attacks the fatty casing that protects nerve fibres, causing scarring (sclerosis) that can disrupt or even block signals within the brain and/or spinal cord. These ‘scars’ occur in different places for different suffers, meaning symptoms will vary person to person.

For Barsby, for example, it causes pins-and-needles in her fingers, down her spine and in her legs, as well as intense fatigue.

She is one of 23,000 Australians living with the condition. Yet at the time of diagnosis in 2015, she – like most – didn’t really know what M.S. was, what the little white dots on her MRI scan meant for her health and her cricket career.

“It was scary… The first thing I did was call my parents, and we all came together as a family that afternoon, had a cry session and just got it all out,” she said.

“It was really hard for a few days after that. Because I got [diagnosed] on a Thursday and it wasn’t until the Monday coming that I saw the neurologist to find out how bad it was, the extent of it. So I was in limbo. I went to training to try and distract myself.”

As some of you are aware, today I start my medication for MS. From today, for the rest of my life, I have to take a tablet a day to stop/prevent attacks. Laying by myself in a hospital bed for 6 hours has given me a lot of time to think, particularly about all those people who have it worse than me. People who have to lay in a hospital bed every day and can only look out the hospital window to see what sort of day it is. Although I have MS, I count myself very lucky that I can still do the things I love. Like many people who have a disease, I’ll never let this stop me. I choose to live my life the way I want to, regardless of what life has dealt me. Today has really made me appreciate how lucky I actually am. Who knows what tomorrow holds for each of us – we just have to enjoy what we have each and every day ✌????️✌????

A post shared by Jemma Barsby (@jemmaabb) on

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Thankfully, it was good news. Barsby’s case is relatively mild and she manages well with the help of friends, family, her teammates and Cricket Australia.

“At this stage it hasn’t got in the way,” she said. “Of course, I have good and bad days, but I just have to make the most of the good ones and be smart on the worst. But I’m actually really lucky. The support I have had to be able to continue pursuing my dream is unbelievable.”

Well, two dreams. One she’s living out on the pitch, the other two days a week as a barista a local cafe. Owning her own coffee shop is something Barsby has wanted ever since she was a kid, and she hopes that one day – post cricket, of course – that she’ll get there.

“I’m pretty lucky at the moment that I can do both,” she said. “Thinking about cricket 24/7 can get pretty overwhelming, so to escape a little bit, make some coffees and chat to customers is pretty refreshing.”

jemma barsby cricket player ms
Jemma will be playing for the Brisbane Heat again in WBBL3. Image: Supplied.
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It'll only get harder to get distance from the sport after this summer. Women's cricket is finally on its way to receiving the profile it deserves, largely thanks to the WBBL. The games are televised, the stands often full.

"I still have to pinch myself when I think about how much women's sport and women's cricket has changed. Going back to when I first started, getting the bare minimum and not getting recognised at all, to now getting paid pretty good money, starting to get recognised and have kids and young families coming to our games," Barsby said.

"That's what girls need to see to stay in the sport, role models like myself and the others playing cricket and seeing what we're able to achieve."

Since its been televised, she's had fans come up to her, kids, parents, asking about the upcoming season, posing for photos. And while she likes her time out behind the coffee machine, Barsby's all for it.

"I hope I can use this and the growing exposure of women's cricket to broaden everyone's perspective of M.S., to make people aware of what it is and what people who live with it are going through," she said. "Hopefully I can raise some money along the way too, so that hopefully one day there could be a cure."

For more information on Multiple Sclerosis or to donate, please visit ms.org.au.

The Women's Big Bash begins this Saturday December 9. The entire competition will stream live on Mamamia. Check back on our website for more information.

Visit the Big Bash website for fixtures and details.