Trishna Bharadia was a contestant on the People’s Strictly for Comic Relief.
Trishna was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 28 in 2008. She works full-time as a translator for an information services company but in her spare time has collaborated with various MS and disability organisations, to ensure that people with MS are supported and their needs are understood within the wider community and by the general public. Here she talks about her experience on the show.
Dancing out of my comfort zone
I’m someone who has always loved the idea of dancing but never had the confidence to do it. Being diagnosed with MS brought a huge amount of uncertainty into my life and changed the way that I viewed things. The nature of the condition means that I could quite literally wake up tomorrow and not be able to move my arms or legs. No warning. It can just happen.
This led me to taking the bull by its horns and I started to do all the things that I’d always wanted. Dancing was one of them. I took up Zumba classes, where I really fell in love with dancing. It taught me that actually you don’t need confidence or even a certain level of physical ability to dance, you just need a passion for it and to be able to think outside the box.
I’m a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing and when my sister heard that they were looking for people to participate in the first ever People’s Strictly for Comic Relief, she knew she had to enter me.
There were over 11,000 nominations and just six of us were chosen. It was an honour that the producers believed my story was worth telling and that the work that I’d done with various MS charities since being diagnosed warranted me making one of my dreams come true!
Dancing with MS or other chronic conditions or impairments isn’t easy. While I was having the time of my life on the show, dancing with the wonderful Aljaz Skornajec, behind the scenes I was also struggling with fatigue and the uncertainty of my condition. The four months were physically, emotionally and mentally tough, particularly as I was still working full-time, as well as filming and dance training. Training was anywhere between 10 to 25 hours per week for six weeks.
Just a few weeks before we were going to do our final dance, my foot went numb and I was terrified I was having an MS relapse; one of my relapses had previously involved me losing the feeling down one side of my body. Turns out afterwards that I actually had localised nerve damage from poorly fitting dance shoes, but it served to remind me just how uncertain my condition can be.
The production crew, other contestants and professional dancers became like a family to me. I’m used to having a strong support network around me, which enables me to do all the things that I want to do. On filming days it was my new Strictly family that ensured I was able to get enough rest and that adjustments were made to ensure I was being shown at my best.
Aljaz was fabulous and there were parts of our jive routine that we adapted and adjusted to take into account my fatigue and wobbliness when my muscles started tiring!
Doing Strictly has helped me to appreciate further what I’m capable of physically and also allowed me to push myself and find new limits. I would do it all over again given half a chance! I was supremely aware, however, that not everyone with MS would be able to do what I did. I was contacted by the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (WDSA) and have since helped them to promote wheelchair dancing. I mean, who says that dancing has to be standing on two legs? Dance is a beautiful and challenging art form and disability definitely doesn’t have to be a barrier to people who want to give it a go!
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