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World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day: Meet Sean Myring

World MS Day, Sean Myring

Tuesday 30 May 2023

In March 2012, at the age of 22, Sean Myring set off to the UK to travel and pursue his cricket dream.

Little did he know that the 9 months following would be one of the scariest periods of his life, as he would later be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

While trialing at a cricket team just north of London, Sean “quickly realised something was wrong”.

“I couldn’t see the ball, it came to me in frames, rather than smoothly. I left the session embarrassed and confused,” says Sean.

He was advised by an optometrist that he had an inflamed optic nerve, which could be an early symptom of MS, and he was sent straight to the Emergency Department.

The thought of having MS didn’t feel like it could be a possibility for Sean.

“At the time all I thought I knew about MS was that it was an incurable disease that meant I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, but I was healthy and active, so I knew they had got that wrong. There was no way I had MS.”

Over the course of the next 9 months, Sean received several tests and scans all over the UK, in what he describes as “a period of constant anxiety”.

In late 2012, a neurologist confirmed Sean’s diagnosis. He had relapsing, remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS).

This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the protective covering (myelin) around nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The damage to the myelin means the nerves don’t work as well as they should, causing symptoms which vary depending on where the damage has occurred. In RRMS, damage tends to occur in periods of attacks or relapses, with periods of recovery or remission.

Sean went through a stage of denial, burying his diagnosis and getting on with his trip. He even kept it from his family and friends back home. This, however, took a significant toll on his mental health, and for the first time in his life, he suffered from anxiety and depressive periods.

In May 2014, Sean was back home in Melbourne when he began to experience a "pins and needles type sensation” in the tip of his right thumb. He headed straight to the Austin and was kept there for testing, and was introduced to the Neuro-Immunology Clinical Research, Education and Support Service (N-CRESS).

“This was the first time since it had all started 2 years prior that we [Sean and his mum] had been given a shoulder to cry on, an understanding of what it was, and a clear plan on the next steps. My MS nurse was the reason I finally was able to accept my diagnosis.”

Belinda Bardsley is one of these nurses. She clearly remembers meeting Sean at his first clinic visit.

“The MS Nurse is often the first person to witness the emotion of the diagnosis of MS. This is when reassurance, information, education and support is absolutely crucial,” says Belinda, N-CRESS Manager.

“Handled the right way, this first discussion can change the trajectory of the disease course. Handled poorly, people will reject the diagnosis and turn their back on treatment forever, often with devastating consequences. I have had the pleasure and privilege of caring for Sean since that day.”

9 years on, Sean is still receiving regular support and treatment at the Austin.

“I am one of the lucky ones. My treatment is effective for me. My day-to-day life is largely unhindered by my MS. With that being said, it scares me to think where I would be right now if it weren’t for the MS nursing team," he says.