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Meet Caroline, OMS Trustee and NHS Trust Chief Executive

Caroline Clarke has been a trustee for Overcoming MS since 2017 and is Chief Executive of the Royal Free Group in North London. Our fantastic Trustee Board volunteer their time to support the running of Overcoming MS.

My name is Caroline Clarke and I have MS. I was diagnosed in 2014, having previously been diagnosed with transverse myelitis in 2007. I’m a trustee of OMS and follow the program.

I work in the NHS, and was diagnosed by colleagues, which was a bit weird for all of us. I’m the Chief Executive of the Royal Free Group in North London, and we have a large neurology service.

MS Diagnosis

I remember waking up one morning and recognising a creeping paralysis down one side.  Somehow I’d never equated my original diagnosis of transverse myelitis with the possibility of MS.

In hindsight, I think that I had read that there was a conversion factor from TM to MS, but I’d conveniently forgotten about it, and hoped for the best. So it was weird to feel the old “hug” coming back.  

It was one of our senior neurologists who eventually had to tell me what I now suspected. But he also told me that one of his relatives had MS and had a more intense job than mine and that I could manage the condition.

That knowledge was profoundly helpful in remembering that this is a condition that I have, rather than it owning me.  The other thing that helped was OMS.

Finding Overcoming MS

Like many people I went hunting for advice on the internet and found George Jelinek’s book, which seemed the most sane and constructive read that I found.  

It led me to start to make some necessary changes to my lifestyle. Specifically, the OMS program promotes exactly what the NHS is trying to get the wider population to do - to help people improve the quality of their lives by modifying lifestyle and taking control.  It’s perfect for this time - the NHS Long Term Plan, published recently, absolutely promotes this approach for both the prevention and management of long term conditions.  

Health wise I’m as fit as I’ve been in a long time. I had a brain scan recently which shows stability and my body is OK. I had two courses of Alemtuzumab a couple of years ago, and use the OMS program to maintain my health.

I’d say it’s a journey  - I have a busy job and OMS really helps me keep a watchful eye on work life balance. I don’t always get it right, but I now know what makes the difference.

I’m pretty sure that the OMS program is something that all new patients with MS should have access to.  

Lifestyle modifications

There is a growing barrage of evidence that this type of lifestyle program should be used for a range of health conditions.  

It’s also clear that we can’t continue to finance our health systems as we used to, as our populations age and increase, whichever country we are in.  

So policymakers will increasingly have to turn to programs like ours to help solve the gap. That sounds like a win-win to me.

Caroline Clarke 

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