Tipperary Town's Michaela Kiely with her husband Clint and son CJ.
Clint has been a rock of support during Michaela’s life with MS over the past 11 years. “There was a stone missing from my ring the week of the wedding, but it didn’t stress me out one bit and nobody could believe it. I was marrying ‘my one’ and that’s all that mattered,” Michaela tells The Nationalist.
“We had a lovely day with 100 of our friends and families. It was perfect,” she smiles.
The newly married couple have a six-year-old boy called CJ, and wouldn't let MS stop them considering expanding their family in the future. “The stress being pregnant would put on my body worries me, but MS wouldn't stop us trying for another baby in years to come,” Michaela says.
MS has made Michaela “cautious”, but she thankfully notes that it's a "manageable and livable illness". She is aware of what triggers her attacks, and does everything in her power to combat them. “Even the smallest of things can bring on a minor relapse, so I try to remain as stress free as possible. I have been to counselling which has really helped.
“I try to keep in shape, but I have the monitor how much exercise I do because too much can have a negative effect on my body.
“When my mam came to MS meetings with me others would always ask ‘how’s your mother coping with MS?’. It’s not something you would expect a young person to have, but it’s good to link up with support groups if and when you need help.
“I work part time at Three Drives Family Resource Centre and they have been fantastic. I recently got promoted to an after schools group leader position,” she smiles.
However, Michaela’s recent bliss and optimism for the future hasn’t come without its difficulties. She emotionally recalls her leg suddenly going numb on the train to Dublin for a day out. “It felt like a dead leg and stayed that way for three months, going up under my rib cage. I was in sixth year at St. Ailbe's School and had to go for tests to see what was wrong with me. I was told I had MS the day before I got my Leaving Certificate results.
“Everyone knew what MS was except me, and they were offering their support. But I was feeling fine, could walk and talk, and went on to have three great years studying Music, Media and Performance Technology at the University of Limerick.
“It wasn't until my final year in 2009 that I got my second relapse. It was horrific, and I spent two weeks in Cork University Hospital undergoing tests and on steroids,” the daughter of Mike and Josie Kiely continues.
The course of Michaela’s life abruptly altered. “The second attack changed everything, and my quality of life has been completely different ever since.
“Initially it was just my right side that was affected, but it has moved to my left side now and it worries me. I’m not progressing fast which is great, but it’s still scary. Worst case scenario I'll end up in a wheelchair when I’m 60. I know it could happen sooner and that MS will hit me hard one day and completely knock me out, but I try not to think like that,” Michaela highlights.
Michaela describes the heartache of fighting MS in her twenties. “With my qualification I was hoping to be able to travel and work in different places, but MS has played a huge factor in the decisions I’ve made. I always felt it would be safer to stay close to my family rather than being at the other side of the world struggling to cope.
“I was never big into going out drinking, but even just socialising with friends at the weekends can be tough because of fatigue. To my friends and family I may look fine, but only Clint knows how burnt out I get. I could have a perfect night’s sleep and there still might be something wrong in the morning.
“I can cope with a dead leg, but it’s the slurring of my speech that upsets me the most. I become completely flabbergasted, and it takes great effort to string a sentence together. I’m falling over my words, and it’s a killer. I feel like my tongue is swelling and I get a lisp.
“I bloat out when I go on steroids after a relapse and it’s just terrible,” she underlines.
Support World MS Day 2017
With time, Michaela has learnt to combat MS, and she is encouraging Tipperary people to support World MS Day 2017 on Wednesday 31st May.
This year’s theme is ‘Life with MS’, and MS Ireland - the national organisation providing vital services, information and support to people with MS - are highlighting the challenges of living with the long-lasting disease and the crucial need for increased neuro rehabilitation services.
Michaela praises MS Ireland for the wonderful fundraisers they hold, and hopes that the Government will "dig into their pockets" to provide more support for those affected by the potentially disabling disease.
The Tipperary South MS Branch are having a coffee morning at Carvery Restaurant in Tipperary Town for World MS Day from 11am-12:30pm. All are welcome. The group meet up once a month and go on summer outings together. Contact branch secretary Lorraine Fahey on 085-7865287 for more information.
Alternatively, you can support World MS Day by texting STEPS to 50300 and donate €4. Visit www.ms-society.ie.