FAMILY HEALTH: I'll swim to show the world you can have MS and be a winner..; MIKE FIT FOR LIFE AFTER SHATTERING DIAGNOSIS.
The super-fit swimmer, runner, rower and rugby player had been given no hope for the future.
Within months of the shock diagnosis at the age of 27, Mike was confined to a wheelchair. "I was at rock bottom. It was like my life was over," says Mike.
But, thanks to the positive attitude of a homeopathic doctor, he decided he was too young, athletic and determined to give up.
He took up competitive swimming again, set up his own - now successful - graphic design company, and is about to take part in a 38-mile team swim off the coast of California.
"I discovered that even though there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, that doesn't mean there's no hope," says Mike, now 34, from South London. "I don't have to sit there and do nothing but wait to deteriorate.
I AM young and I have plenty of life to live yet. My legs may not work, which is incredibly frustrating, but the rest of me does."
Mike was working as a graphic designer for a big London agency when he temporarily lost the sight in his right eye. He thought it was stress.
But a few months later he developed a slight limp. "I put it down to an old sporting injury," says Mike. "I had always been hugely athletic. I ran and swam for the Midlands, played rugby for my county, skied and rowed.
"But I was worried about my leg dragging so I went to a sports physiotherapist to have some treatment."
To Mike's astonishment, the physiotherapist referred him immediately for an MRI scan - and multiple sclerosis was diagnosed. I was just told I had MS, there was no cure, and there was nothing I could do. I just had to get on with it," says Mike.
"I carried on working and playing too hard but within three months I had deteriorated from a mild limp to walking with sticks.
"A few months later I was in a wheelchair. I was never given any hope for the future. I went on a trial of beta-interferon injections but they did no good at all.
"Then I was invited to an MS Association bingo evening. I had never felt so depressed.
"I was young. I wanted to be out clubbing and enjoying sports. Not playing bingo. I had sunk to the lowest I had ever been." Then a chance meeting with a family friend at a funeral changed Mike's life.
She told him about homeopath Dr Julian Kenyon in Southampton and for the first time since he had been diagnosed Mike found a positive approach.
"He was the first person to offer hope, not write me off," says Mike. "I changed my diet, cut out diary products and sugar, and began to eat more healthily, which made me feel better immediately.
"And he prescribed homeopathic medicine which I still take daily. But it was the power of positive thinking that really made such a difference."
Mike became determined to return to his old fitness. Although unable to take part in most sports, he took up swimming again. He found cold water relieved the pain from MS, so went regularly to his local Tooting Bec Lido - an outdoor, unheated pool.
"But I got bored swimming up and down in a pool all the time and decided to stretch myself further," he says.
In the past two years he has taken part in a cross-Channel relay swim, swam across Loch Lomond and from Majorca to Minorca to raise funds for research into the disease that has changed his life.
Next week he is one of six taking part in a 20-hour swim from Catalina Island to Santa Monica in California.
"The idea is not only to raise money for research into MS but to raise the profile of the disease," says Mike. "There are 80,000 sufferers in the UK alone and many more worldwide. Many are young. It is not an old person's disease.
YET we are given so little help or hope. Our lives are written off. That mustn't be the case.
"You can have an enjoyable life even with MS. I go clubbing with my friends. I look fine when I am sitting down and they carry me if I have to use the stairs.
"I am still on my diet and take homeopathic medicines. But the most important thing is the positive attitude. I have the motivation to live a full life. I'm not going to let this beat me."
MIKE is supporting the Race to Erase MS, an American charity, and the Myelin Project, a UK-based research project to find a cure for MS.
Myelin is a substance which coats and insulates the body's nerve fibres and is destroyed in MS sufferers. Trials to rebuild the missing myelin, funded by the charity, have just begun at Yale University in the USA.
The Myelin Project, Douglas Cottage, 2 Eshiels Peebles, Scotland, EH45 8NA. Tel: 01721 720546. Fax: 01721 721555.
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 10, 1999|
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