“MS is the worst and best thing to ever happen to me,” said Erin Tilley, 41, of Southdowns Park, Haywards Heath.
The mother-of-one is gearing up for a seven-day hike along the famous Hadrian’s Wall – an 84-mile National Trail between Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast and Wallsend on the east, to raise money for the MS Society.
She said: “I have always wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall so I thought this was a good way to do it, and to raise money for the MS Society, who have helped me so much.
“The work they do is incredible. I was very lucky to be diagnosed quickly, for some people it can take up to ten years.”
Erin, who was born in Australia, was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2015, after going blind in one eye. She was living in Paris at the time.
“I felt like someone was holding a sheet over my eyes,” she said.
“Doctors thought it was meningitis or a stroke at first but when I went to an eye hospital I was seen within 15 minutes when there was a five-hour A&E wait. This is when I realised it was bad.
“In Australia you don’t go to the doctors unless you’re really sick, but France is the opposite, and my boss at the time was nagging me to go to hospital. I was concerned it was MS because of health problems in the past and the medications I was on weren’t working.
“When I found out I just thought what next. I guess I had prepared myself for it, and my attitute was that I could not do anything about it. I do get scared of course, but generally I try to keep positive. I believe if I start to wallow it is going to get worse.”
Erin works part-time in Waitrose Cafe at Haywards Heath railway station. She also runs her own family research business from home and is completing a masters degree in Genealogy.
She lived in Australia until she was 20, before moving to France. She moved to Haywards Heath after meeting her husband. The couple have a 19-year-old son, Tirian.
She decided to change her life when she was diagnosed. She quit her ‘stressful’ job as a global support director, and decided to get fit.
“I have lost five stone, I was a size 26 when I was diagnosed, now I am a size 16,” she said.
“I am so much stronger now. But there are people with MS who are immobile and can’t do things, so that’s why I want to raise money. My MS is more of an inconvenience than anything.
“The thing that scares me about MS is losing the ability to think clearly or communicate clearly and losing who you are.”
Erin will take on the hike with her husband on May 17, and hopes to raise £4,000. People can donate by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/leaguesforlesions.
If anyone wants to sponsor Erin they can email her via firstname.lastname@example.org