Sharee Richards’ life was never the same after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010.
The single mum from Melbourne didn’t feel like herself for three years, but her GP didn’t pick up of any of the subtle warning signs and she was advised to ‘live a healthy lifestyle’.
‘I used to run four days a week but started having difficulty lifting one leg. I also felt incredibly fatigued,’ Sharee told FEMAIL.
It wasn’t until she turned to a close friend – who’s also a doctor – that she was finally diagnosed in just two days.
‘Our sons played sport together and one day I was speaking to her about my symptoms, then she noticed I was dragging my leg as I walked. I went to the hospital that Saturday and was diagnosed on the Monday,’ Sharee said.
The now 57-year-old, who has no family history of the disease, is now in a wheelchair and completely dependent on others following a surgery that went horribly wrong.
Sharee Richards (pictured with son Josh) has been living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 13 years. Prior to being diagnosed she barely knew what MS was
In 2013 Sharee started using a walking stick, which was a ‘huge deal’, then had to use a walker and was forced to stop driving in 2016. All through this time she was working full-time.
She later had nephrostomy surgery – a procedure to drain urine from the kidneys using a catheter – but doctors accidentally ‘nicked her bladder’, leaving Sharee with sepsis.
‘I was meant to spend six days in hospital recovering – but this turned into four months,’ she said.
‘I had to have six surgeries in six weeks to fix what happened and lost complete control of my legs and one arm.
‘It was very frustrating because it shouldn’t have happened. It was a major change and wasn’t in my life plan.’
She now has a colostomy bag and permanent catheter.
Adding to this, Sharee now has trouble talking due to MS and is forced to ask her 26-year-old son, Josh, to help with much of her care.
‘I have a really clear memory of day I was diagnosed – I was really happy to have received a prognosis that I was laughing and crying at the same time,’ she recalled.
‘I didn’t know anything about MS at the time – nor did I understand it. I just knew about the MS Readathon we did at school.
‘I feel that there’s not enough information out there about MS, no one really know what it is until they know someone with it.’
Today Sharee has trouble talking, is unable to walk and can’t care for herself, placing a burden on her son Josh (pictured before prognosis)
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
MS is the most common acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40 and, in Australia, affects three times more women than men.
As yet, there is no cure.
There is no known single cause of MS, but many genetic and environmental factors have been shown to contribute to its development.
In MS, the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the fatty material – called myelin – around the nerves.
This results in a range of symptoms, but no two people experience MS in the same way.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) has many symptoms, which can be variable and unpredictable. No two people will experience exactly the same symptoms and these symptoms can be a one-off occurrence, can come and go or change in severity over time.
Source: MS Australia
Sharee requires daily medication to help with her symptoms along with seeing the physio twice weekly, and occupational therapist weekly.
She also has a team of carers who assist with day-to-day life.
If anything, the diagnosis has brought Sharee and Josh closer.
Josh said during his teenage years he used to be embarrassed helping his mum in public, such as feeding her at a restaurant, but now he doesn’t care.
‘I always go out of my way to make sure she’s comfortable, it’s the most important thing,’ he said.
However, Sharee gets emotional thinking about how her diagnosis has impacted her son.
‘If I’m being honest, for me the saddest aspect is the impact it’s had on Josh. He’s had to change his whole life around me and my lack of independence,’ Sharee said.
This month Josh and countless others will be participating in The May 50K charity event over the course of this month to raise money for MS research
She added one of the biggest challenges is acceptance.
‘I’ve had to come to terms with it and know this is how it is. But I’ve welcomed opportunities my way and met some lovely people from everything,’ she said.
This month Josh and countless others will be participating in The May 50K charity event over the course of this month to raise money for MS research. So far $33,000 has been raised.
MS is the most common acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40.
More than 10 Australians are diagnosed with MS every week and currently 33,000 people across the country live with the disease.
To read more about The May 50K and donate, click here.