Martina McCorriston believes in living life to the full, and she certainly does that. After spending five years waiting for a diagnosis Martina says her life was on hold but now she is back in the driving seat!
It has been an often frustrating journey for Martina but things got a lot worse shortly after her marriage to Martin. The couple went from doctor to doctor hoping for a solution to Martina's worsening health problems. And that is what they found thanks to the continuing support of their GP.
The couple live in Portstewart, where Martin works as a civil engineer.
"My symptoms started as a teenager, in hindsight. I became an absolute clutz, seemingly overnight I was just so clumsy and kept breaking dishes and things.
I was the eldest of five children and my mother had been widowed a few years before so I had always helped around the house but now I felt incapable and awkward," said Martina.
"My mother was concerned and, unbeknownst to me, had contacted our doctor but was told not to worry and that she was being overprotective. My mum had seen it all before though as her mum and aunt had multiple sclerosis, however the doctors were adamant that it was all psychological- a diagnosis that I would hear again and again over the years."
Martina's early symptoms were then largely absent over the next ten years but in 2000, when Martina was 26, her kidney's started to fail and she suffered recurrent infections.
"It was just one thing after another. Martin and I had just got married and bought our first home but I spent most of my time in bed severely ill.
I was always running to the doctors and met a fantastic man who steered me through the next few years and encouraged me at every turn. That man was GP Dr Michael McCartney, he noticed my case history and said it must be investigated further," recalled Martina.
At this point Martina said she felt drained and in constant pain from the recurrent kidney infections. She had to give up a job she loved but meeting Dr McCartney gave Martina a renewed hope that she would get to the bottom of it all.
"There is nothing more frustrating, and I'm sure a lot of people with multiple sclerosis can relate to this, than knowing that something is wrong but not knowing what, what is it? You are living in a kind of limbo, my life was on hold completely and I felt I couldn't make any plans for the future," Martina continued.
Thanks to a positive attitude Martina continued to look for an answer and ignored the detractors.
"I have a wonderful husband and family who have supported me at every turn. I was formally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 by Neurologist Dr Michael Watt, who could not have done more for myself and my husband.
He diagnosed secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. That was the turning point, my life started again in his office on a cold december day in 2004. I left with a prescription for medications to manage my symptoms and I can honestly say both Martin and myself have not looked back since."
Martina says things are great and her positive mental attitude shines through.
"It can be very tough at times but I would encourage everyone with MS to try to stay positive and involved with life, it helps you! You are definitely speaking to the converted with me, it just makes life easier- for yourself and those around you," smiled Martina.
The neurologist can't figure out how Martina is still walking but she is- and that's not all.
"I believe in taking care of myself now and I visit the Action MS centre in Coleraine every fortnight to have reflexology with Moira McIvor. She's fantastic and I love to see everyone and hear what's been happening.
Action MS have been great and also recommended I try toning tables, which I absolutely love. They help keep my muscles toned and stop them from wasting."
Martina definitely is an inspiration, and her message is, find a way. She loved swimming and has found a way to be back in the water four times a week. She does aquatherapy at Coleraine Leisure Centre.
"I found this great device it's an aquatherapy band called the aquasprinter specially designed for people with sports injuries or, as in my case, lower leg dysfunction. The leisure centre also allow you to pre-book a changing room which means I have total privacy," laughed Martina.
"I enjoy my life, and I would say to people make the effort to do something, make it work for you. I have come through that period of confusion and frustration, but to others I would say just keep going until you find your own answers."