Tag Archives: ms

My experience on People’s Strictly, as a dancer with MS

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 unBlack and white photo of Trishna in rehearsal with her dance partnercertainty 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.

Trishna wearing all yellow, posing with her dance partnerI’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!

Facing Challenges

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, Trishna wearing a white sparkly dress, posing in a dance move with her partnerparticularly 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 Trishna and her dance partner giving each other a high fivenew 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!

Want to know more? You can connect with Trishna on Facebook or Twitter

Have you got a dancing story you’d like to tell us? We’d love to hear about it – just comment below. 

I can’t walk across a room but I can play 18 holes of golf – #100days100stories

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was a harsh blow to Graeme. Here he tells his story about how golf has improved his health and helped give his life purpose again as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Graeme Robertson smilingI used to be a keen sportsman and passionate golfer, however at 35 I was diagnosed with primary progressive MS – that’s more of a slow decline rather than the highs and lows commonly associated with MS. It was a harsh blow and for 15 years I ditched competitive sports. My work became an issue as my mobility declined and I felt very low about everything. It was particularly hard in the winter when I found it impossible to even get to the swimming pool independently.

I was provided with a wheelchair, and as a very proud man, that was even harder to deal with. Our local council introduced my wife Sue and I to table tennis (with me in the chair) so we could have some of the fun we were missing out on and it was really the turning point.

After watching a YouTube video I wondered if I could find a way to play golf again, and so four years ago I took part in the first pilot for disabled golf and as they say the rest is history. Along with my wife Sue, I co-founded the Disabled Golf Association (DGA) as a not-for-profit charitable community interest company. We now have over 800 members across the country!

Sue and Graeme in a golf cart

The power of sport

It’s amazing the power of the human mind to overcome adversity. Sport can be vital in therapy and rehabilitation of disabled people,  including those with hidden disabilities. Golf compared to other sports, played with a stationary ball, can stimulate neural pathways. There are very few sports available for disabled people played out in the fresh air that can be both frustrating and fun at the same time!

15 years after my diagnosis, I have gone on to be Team England Captain for the last 3 years. Through golf I’ve found a purpose to life again. My golf is not as good as it used to be, but I’m really enjoying the challenge and though I can’t walk across a room, I can play 18 holes (albeit with a little help with a golf buggy and a kindly arm!).Team England - 13 golfers on a golf course

I know from personal experience the difference my participation has made on my health. My wife has noticed that my concentration and balance have improved, but more importantly I’m more content! Being involved has given me the opportunity to meet some very inspiring people and make new friends. Sue’s health suffered over time too, so it’s fantastic to see her learning to play golf too now!

Future ambitions

Now I’m working hard to improve my golf swing! I’m not only working out at the gym but going to yoga, back swimming again, hydrotherapy, and I attend a gym for people with long term conditions where I can safely do cardio work on the bikes. As event co-ordinator for the DGA I hope to provide inspiration to others too. I’ve also found suitable employment where I have turned my disability to a real advantage.

DGA provide a supportive, caring and understand environment for making true friendships. Find out more on the Disabled Golf Association website.

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of the stories so far.