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10 November 2021

Overcoming MS Essex Circle Meet-up

Clare McKenzie, shares her experience of OMS Circles as well as her time at a recent Circle in-person meet up.

Where it all began...

It seems a very long time since lockdown 1.0 was introduced to us all – way back on the 23rd March 2020. The idea of restricting contact with our family, friends and loved ones was unthinkable, but it was what we all had to comply with. The disruption to our work, life and play patterns were front, centre and laid bare to see.

Anyone who worked was encouraged to do so from home, which was a game changer for those who did not have to make the daily commute. More time to be productive, better work-life balance, but less time to socialise. Online video meetings are super efficient, but in-person meetings and get-togethers are so much nicer.

Finding Overcoming MS Circles

When I read that Overcoming MS were introducing Circles across the UK I wanted to find out more. Meeting like-minded people who understood the highs and lows of having MS for me was important. You know what they say: you do not get it until you get it!

I have been following the Overcoming MS programme since my diagnosis in March 2019. The programme made a lot of sense to me and mapped my diet preferences. Meeting other people, who were on the programme, to chat about recipes, exercises and all the fun stuff that comes along with MS, in a light-hearted way, I was all-in.  

Initially, I first contacted Alex (IG: @thehiddenstorey) and we connected via Zoom. Over the following few months, the Circle started to grow. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, contact was just via Zoom check-in calls.

The first meet-up

We all wanted to meet up ‘in-person’ and, I’m never one to turn down a lunch invite, we decided on a central location that we could all easily travel to and booked a suitable restaurant. The menu had been checked and we found there were options that ticked the Overcoming MS dietary boxes.

Our table was located at the back of the restaurant in a quiet corner (all COVID-secure) and the food ordering was done via an app. As you can imagine, we muddled through placing our food and drinks orders was a bit of a challenge, but there were lots of giggles.

You would have thought we had all known each other for years. The conversation flowed with lots of shared interests and topics, aside from Overcoming MS. As you can see from the photo, Alex and I were clearly thinking alike and both donned stripy jumpers. Next time, for the December in-person gathering, it’s Christmas jumpers!!!

To sum up, the toughest part of the lockdowns for me was the lack of contact with others. There really is no substitute for in-person gatherings. Creating shared experiences, swapping stories and finding time and space in ‘human’ was something that I have personally missed a lot. Thanks to the Overcoming MS Circles, I have always felt supported and that there was someone I could turn to for a chit chat or for general ‘what if’ queries. It’s lovely to progress from virtual to physical social events. Next time, I’ll be raising a glass. Cheers! 

If you would like more information about joining the Essex Circle please send a DM to Alex Storey on Instagram @thehiddenstorey or myself @ms_jellylegs.

Keen to become part of the Overcoming MS Circles in Essex? Join in the Live Well Hub here.


Group photo: Alex, Tony, Bernadette and Clare.

Restaurant table photo: Acanten, Chelmsford, Essex.

Photographer: Clare’s partner Gary.


Further notes:

What is an Overcoming MS Circle?

An Overcoming MS Circle is a community of people who share a belief in making positive changes to their diets and lifestyles to achieve a better and healthier life with MS. They meet regularly for events and outings, answer each other’s questions, and act as a source of support and encouragement for each other, in good and not-so-good times.

There are many ways Overcoming MS Circle members can get together. The meetings are a way of connecting people and  sharing experiences and supporting one another. These gathering take place in public places at a local café, bar, restaurant or local park if the weather is fine. The important thing is for people to connect, chat, and learn from each other’s experiences.

Find more details on Overcoming MS Circles here: Circle FAQs.