Fund raising is generally motivated by personal inspiration. My second challenge - to raise £50,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society during my fifties - is no different. Very dear friends have this debilitating condition, which is often overlooked in fundraising and resource allocation. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most widespread disabling neurological condition of young adults around the world. Exact figures are hard to come by, but it is estimated that:
2.3 million people around the world have MS (1)
There are more than 100,000 people with MS in the UK (2)
2,200 new cases are diagnosed in the US each week (1)
Among these millions of people are two very dear friends: intelligent, warm, funny, generous, caring mothers, wives and daughters. I have never heard them complain about the condition; they just get on with life, making small modifications so they don't tire themselves out unnecessarily and going to ground when things flare up.
They are not the only friends who have MS. One of our oldest family friends has lived with the condition for as long as I can remember. The mother of a school friend was in a wheelchair for years with MS. And another friend's mother, who had been paralysed by MS for years, died an early death due to the complications caused by the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms vary a great deal, but common problems include fatigue, vision problems, tingling and numbness, vertigo and dizziness, muscle weakness and spasms and problems with balance and co-ordination.
There is no cure, and MS is an expensive condition to treat, yet resource allocations are woefully inadequate. When one of my friends had a very severe MS attack and was unable to dress herself, clean her teeth or comb her hair, it took a fortnight for her local MS nurse to call her back; she is overwhelmed by her workload.
MS is a Cinderella disease when it comes to public attention and funding, which is why I have set myself the scarily big target of raising £50,000 for the MS Society over the next 10 years. They say that if your dreams don't scare you, you're not dreaming big enough. This challenge does scare me: it means lots of consistent fundraising over the next decade, starting with a £5,000 target when I run the New York Marathon as the first of my #50Challenges. But I have seen the reality of MS, and the impact of the lack of adequate funding, so I'm prepared to be scared by my challenge!