Clare Walsh is a well-known member of the Aspire group in Coleraine. Clare lives with her family in the village of Balnamore, just outside Coleraine. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nine years ago, Clare says it will not stop her carrying on with everyday life.
On Saturday 7 June Clare is planning to take to the skies to highlight multiple sclerosis with a tandem skydive at the Wild Geese centre in Garvagh.
This is a true reflection of Clare’s courage and inner strength.
"I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 19. I had just left school and went to the doctor with blurring in my right eye.
"At first I thought I had got paint in it, as I had been painting. The doctor examined my eye and said that she could see nothing. As it got worse, I went to my optician who sent me straight to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast."
It was a confusing time for Clare and her family: "After an examination I was told that they thought I had a tumour. After further tests they told me it was a virus. Within six weeks my sight had gone totally from my right eye," revealed Clare.
"A year later, my left eye began to go the same way. I went to the Royal again and they sent me for a MRI scan and finally MS was diagnosed.
I was told a doctor would see me in four months.
"At the time I knew nothing about what MS was, I had never heard of it. As I sat at home one day I saw an advertisement about Action MS on television, I decided to call and they explained everything in simple terms. Nowadays an MS nurse would be sent out to your home to explain things and give you information on support groups like Action MS, which I think is great for people. I now see an MS nurse after I visit my consultant and they help to explain everything. If you have any problems they will try to help you find a solution, they are very helpful and easy to talk to."
Eight years later Clare is a very active member of Action MS and has enjoyed many of the residential breaks for young people over the past few years. Always the first to have a go, Clare loves to have a laugh.
Clare is part of the Aspire focus group in Coleraine. Clare says: "We all get together and generally have a good old chat. Getting medication for MS is a case of trial and error, so often at the group we discuss what medication has worked and what hasn’t. Speakers often come in and tell us about new drugs or new information about MS.
We all enjoy getting out together to go bowling or to the cinema and have a nice meal out."
"I have reflexology once a fortnight with Moira McIvor at the Action MS North West office, it really helps me and relaxes me and doesn’t make my limbs feel so heavy and helps my balance. Other people with MS find it helps them to."
Clare has good advice for anyone who has been diagnosed with MS: "Keep a strong head, it is so easy to get down or depressed. Don’t look at someone in a wheelchair and think, ‘that’ll be me’ because not everyone with MS ends up in a wheelchair and believe me you can live as ‘normal’ a life as you want - you just have to be determined."