The Chilterns MS Centre nestles between the woods at Wendover and the RAF community at Halton and has been offering therapy to people with multiple sclerosis (MS) for the last 30 years.
To mark the Centre’s 30th anniversary year and the end of its month-long fundraising campaign – Walk the MS mile – the spotlight was turned on three members of the Allen family: John, who has MS, Maureen his wife, who volunteers at the Centre and their daughter Debi, who has walked an MS mile every day for a month and raised £2,500 in the process.
“I felt nothing when I got my diagnosis. I’d been lucky it hadn’t taken long to establish what was wrong, but my concern was more for my family. I was the breadwinner and I had a fear of letting my employer know. Fifteen years went by and I had to give in and use a stick. Now I come to the Centre for oxygen therapy, which makes my hands better and physio to stretch my muscles. Also for the excellent cake! The people are so friendly and I volunteer too, working the oxygen chamber for other people. My MS isn’t about me it’s about the people who care for me. I do feel guilty about relying on them, but it is good to have their support.”
“I remember the exact day John was diagnosed – it was Friday 26 May 1995. I’d say it took me two years to come to terms with the diagnosis. It isn’t a death sentence, but it is life changing. Initially I didn’t want to visit the Centre because I was frightened of seeing people in the more advanced stages of the condition. Then I read that volunteers were needed and came along with a friend. I think the Centre is incredible. People are always laughing and I feel so much better after spending time there. What they’ve done for John is amazing. MS has changed our lives dramatically, but it has also brought our family much closer together.”
“I think mum and dad shielded me and my brother Mark from Dad’s illness. To me he had MS, but he was still Dad so I forgot about it. When he relapsed it suddenly became real. He was having problems with his legs and needed our help, but I’m so proud of him, he never complains and never gives up. I first came to the Centre for a summer fete. The event had a really positive vibe and I met some inspirational people like the trustee Linda Oatley. It was Linda’s idea to walk a mile a day for 30 days to raise £30,000 and I just knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. The Centre helps us all both physically and emotionally. I had a lot of anger about Dad’s illness and we used to be rubbish at communicating, but now there are a lot more hugs and I love yous.”
“I am so proud of what the Chilterns MS Centre has achieved over the last 30 years,” says Chief Executive Robert Breakwell. “The people with MS and those who look after them inspire us all.”
Robert adds: “We know that there are more people with MS in the area who we could be helping and we are determined to reach out to them and assist them continue to live their lives the way they want to.