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Making sense to myself

"It’s hard, and there’s no getting away from it. But the police officer in me won’t back down just like I wouldn’t if I found myself up against a violent criminal."

Ever had that moment when you’ve suddenly made complete sense? All those little things when you were growing up, and the things that make you, you.

That moment for me came with a bump in 2017, in a consultant’s room at Darent Valley Hospital. After natural pleasantries, the consultant came straight out with, “You do have MS”.  Before that appointment, I knew of the letters MS, but that was it. Now I know that it stands for Multiple Sclerosis. All those times of tripping over air, kicking door frames, dropping things, odd bouts of tiredness, and brain farts made complete sense.

All of the worries in the months that had preceded that appointment and the realisation that something was wrong, but also right at the same time, all came crashing together with force that I’d never experienced. Tears flowed but being the logical and practical person I am, I approached matters clinically, knowing that MS would now be accompanying me on the rest of my journey through life. I felt that working with it, was better than just letting it take control.

Before going into that appointment, I’d already decided that if I did have MS, I wasn’t going to let it make me a victim.  Whether that’s my Scottish blood, the stubborn person I can be, or what was being required of me to spend the rest of my life with a Colour Sergeant from the Scot’s Guards, I don’t know.  For those who have served, or have partners in the forces, you’ll understand the requirement to be tough and that any sign of weakness is unacceptable. My soldier asked that of me too.

As the news of the diagnosis settled, I looked at and read everything I could to understand what I could do for myself, and how I could minimise the prospect of being forced to go from an independent woman with the freedom of a driving licence and tank of a car, to being entirely dependent on loved ones, and having no choice but to swap my car for a wheel chair.

It was then that I found Overcoming MS.

I’ve never been one for trying this or trying that just because a celebrity claimed it was revolutionary. The OMS diet is healthy and not a fad compared to most others.

Four years on, and after seeing many fellow sufferers posting things about drinking, smoking, enjoying all kinds of food and later complaining about needing a stick/wheel chair, I limit my reading to factual posts and books, and listen to my body.

I hate food shopping because there is more I can’t have than I can, but having had a number of worrying experiences with products, it’s become easier to deal with. I have had cause to remove gluten, egg, dairy, soya and yeast amongst other things to minimise significant reactions and to ease pain, and fatigue. Gluten has left me needing to smack my stomach on a table edge to reduce bloating enough to breathe, cheese caused my eye sight to go blurry, and other things cause brain fog or my pain/fatigue to become worse. All that was enough to teach me about links between food and how I was feeling. Foods that ease the side effects I have with Tecfidera are another story.

It’s hard, and there’s no getting away from it. But the police officer in me won’t back down just like I wouldn’t if I found myself up against a violent criminal.

Work life

I joined the Metropolitan Police in July 2005, and after supporting many victims of serious sexual assault from report through to court, I became a detective in 2016.  Being a police officer takes a special kind of person, someone prepared to run towards danger, and get stuck in. We do this to protect others as well as ourselves.

I still grieve for the energy and physical abilities I had, but have come to a point where I function as best I’m able to. I know it’s unlikely I’ll ever go back to being in uniform, or driving with blue lights and two tones, but there are still many other roles and opportunities within the police service for me, and anyone else.

Like many with MS, I’ve had no choice but to be stuck working from home since March 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, but there have been great benefits. 

Fatigue and chronic pain have been easier to manage as I could hug a radiator all day during the winter, and even do a day’s work in my pjs if I’ve needed to. Not doing shift work has helped with rest and being able to keep those bad days to myself as I like to.

How can I be a detective and work from home? Adapting is the key. I can still manage my case load from home but rather than dealing with new cases, but it’s an occupation of paper work so there’s always other things that need doing too.

I may approach every day with a positive mind set but I also accept that I may plan adventures for the wild side of me, but then have to cancel them if my body (computer) says, “NO!” Trust me, your pride takes a dent when you’re biggest achievement of the day is to get up and show up. You have to learn the hard way and the conflict of ill health and police officer is ever present.

Met’s Disability Staff Association

During the pandemic, I have become the lead for the Met’s MS Support Network. I recently arranged a number of events which were delivered via Teams to officers and staff of the Met, and other police forces.  There are over 40 MS sufferers, and carers within the network and the events were extremely successful for all concerned. Samantha Josephs of OMS kindly talked to us about nutrition and the OMS diet, but also adapted it to a wider audience to ensure officers and staff with other autoimmune diseases were also included.

The MS Support Network is one of more than 25 support networks led by the Met’s Disability Staff Association.  We work to be an inclusive employer and to represent London’s diverse communities.

I work to raise awareness of disabilities, and conditions to assist the Met Police with being a more inclusive employer, and to be more supportive and representative of London’s diverse communities.

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Rita Smith (not verified)

Congratulations Lee.I enjoyed,if that is appropriate, your article very much.Thank you for the insight into your work/life balance.I hope you continue to manage your MS to give you a life that you enjoy.

Shelley Osborne (not verified)

Hi Lee,

Such a thoughtful and insightful piece. I recognised myself in so much of what you wrote. I’ve had MS for 38 years and whilst I’ve had a few hairy moments, they were few and far between. It’s only in the last 18 months that the fatigue, memory and cognitive issues have become a problem. Like you I am tough and tend to push through them but I also grieve for the strong, resourceful person I once was. Still, I’m working on ways to get around the things I can no longer do and my achievements still astound me sometimes. Keep up the attitude Lee, it’s getting you through those tough times and out the other side. I always said that MS doesn’t define me, it’s just an annoying thing I need to deal with.
Keep up the great work!

Warm regards

Shelley

lee_e

Thank you for your support Shelley. I hope I do as well as you. Annoying, is an understatement lol x

Bernadette Sherry (not verified)

Thank you so much for sharing Lee. I really enjoyed reading your post. I loved that you included others with autoimmune to participate. Everyone could benefit from the OMS lifestyle not just those of us with MS.

lee_e

Thanks Bernadette. There’s a firm link there and others are now thinking seriously about what they eat. My awareness week was a success in many ways for others and my own journey. Keep well x

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