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get involved: kiss goodbye to ms

In 2008, just shy of her 22nd birthday, Jackie Richards experienced some dizziness, fatigue and blurred vision, which she took as evidence of ‘partying too hard’, but after the facial paralysis hit (and gradually worsened throughout the day) she took herself off to the doctor. The diagnosis? Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease caused by damage to the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system, which subsequently interferes with message between the brain and other parts of the body.

Lip spoke with Jackie, now 25, about her journey with MS, her hopes for the future, and the Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign.

Tell me about yourself! What makes you you?
I love being in the company of my friends and family all the time. Without people, I go a little bit crazy. I love music and dancing and my beautiful baby, Puffin (the cat).

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have actually recently resigned [from a HR position at a telecommunications company] and had a complete career change. I have gone from eight years in corporate offices to a little grooming salon for dogs. I have just started a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services and I’m working full time bathing and drying the dogs. I love every second of it!

Tell me about your journey with MS so far – what has it been like? What has been the most challenging for you? Is there a silver lining?
Wow – it has been an interesting journey! Being diagnosed just before 22 years of age, the diagnosis definitely made my plans for the future change. I had been training for the police force and was ready to apply when I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis. It has been very emotionally challenging. Silver lining, I guess, is it makes me appreciate each day I’m healthy.

How do people react when you tell them you have MS?
Most of the time people don’t know what it is, which is very disheartening. If they do know what MS is, they feel sorry for me, which I don’t particularly like. I don’t feel sorry for myself, so I don’t really want anyone else to feel sorry for me. MS is not a death sentence.

In only a year, you raised over $10,000 for the Foundation 5 Million. Amazing! You must be incredibly proud!
I forget sometimes! I am very proud. I never thought I would raise even one thousand, let alone eleven! It was a fantastic night and I definitely could not have done it without Foundation 5 Million, or my mum.

Which brings me to the Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign. What is it about this particular campaign that is so important? Why should people get involved?
It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in raising awareness. People should show their support for Multiple Sclerosis research as you never know when it will strike. And one day, it could be someone close to you that is diagnosed. We need to find a cure!

What do you hope it will achieve?
I hope the campaign will one day be as big as Jeans for Genes or Pink Ribbon day; where you will see every person throughout the city wearing red for MS; where everyone knows what MS is and understands the importance of awareness and raising funds to find the cause and the cure.

What’s your favourite shade of lipstick? What colour will you be rocking in May?
I don’t actually wear lipstick often, but I do have a beautiful red lippy in my drawer that I’ll be wearing for Kiss Goodbye to MS.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for women who have just been diagnosed with MS?
It doesn’t have to be wheelchairs! I have been living with MS for just over three years now and [I’ve learnt that] with a positive attitude and a great support network, you can get through anything. Remember, every case is different and there is every chance that you may never have another attack. One thing I always used to do was blame the MS for any strange sensations I was feeling in my body. Don’t do it! These feelings are more likely your back being out, or a bit of a pinched nerve, or maybe you strained your eyes too much working at the computer all day or you didn’t sleep all that well the night before. Keep the right attitude and you will be fine.

If you could have anything in this world, just one thing, what would it be?
World peace?! I am pretty happy with the way everything is in my world. Of course if there was a way to prevent or cure horrible diseases like MS, that would be wonderful.

The Facts:

  • MS currently affects over 21,000 Australians
  • Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40
  • Three quarters of those diagnosed are women
  • Symptoms vary from person to person—and sometimes within the same person—but can include fatigue, vertigo, memory loss, loss of motor control and cognitive difficulties
  • There is no cure.

The Campaign:

Kiss Goodbye to MS is an initiative of MS Australia and calls on people with Multiple Sclerosis and their friends, family and colleagues to raise funds for research into a cure and for vital services for people living with the disease.

The simplest way to show your support for the campaign is by wearing red lipstick in the month of May and getting sponsors, especially on World MS Day on May 30. Those with an aversion to a bit of lippy can wear red clothing or ‘lipstick on your collar’ stickers or badges. Or why not ‘Dare to Wear’? Dare someone else to go red for the day, jump from a plane (with a red parachute, of course) or avoid red wine for a month – and sponsor them to do so.

All donations made on the website go directly to the cause.

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