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Inspired by my uncle’s experience of MS, I am urging all patients and their families to be as proactive as possible in engaging with MS-specialist healthcare professionals, cold therapy to help alleviate his symptoms. You always seem to have a cheerful disposition faced with the embarrassing conditions put before you on Channel 4. Did you learn this positive demeanour through the hardship of watching someone you love battle with MS? How did your family respond to your uncle’s MS?

S

We never defined Uncle Volker by his illness C and nor did he. I think that’s a positive approach and very helpful for those living the disease and those around them now. So, even with his diagnosis he maintained, as best he could, his friendly, cheerful nature.

S

That is a very positive message to emulate for any illness. As you are a medic can you help clarify for those still baffled by MS what it is actually is?

The exact cause of MS is unknown but many of its characteristics suggest an auto-immune disease, whereby the body attacks its own cells and tissues, which in the case of MS, is myelin - a coating around nerve linings. Researchers do not know what triggers the immune system to attack myelin, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors.

C

S

It can be quite concerning when people mention genetic links? Were you ever worried that you may develop MS?

Due to the genetic link, which is still not conclusive, my mother did speak to a specialist when I was little about the possibility of me also developing MS later in life. She was rightly reassured that it was unlikely but to simply monitor things. MS symptoms start in your 20s up to your 40s typically and thankfully I have never shown any signs at all.

C

S

Although you grew up around science, do you think your uncle’s illness played a part in your choice of career in a profession of helping people?

He was certainly encouraging and proud of me when I decided to go into medicine. While I would say my decision to be a doctor was not directly influenced by him I think that subconsciously it probably was. I have very fond memories of him - he always made an effort to speak to me on the phone while I was studying medicine in London.

C

It’s a small world, Sloan says she was at UCL a few years earlier than you. She too mentions fond stories of her uncle who battled with his own illness. There often seems to be an uncle in the wings offering support and pride. It must have been about this time that you saw your Uncle Volker’s health deteriorate. What were the most noticeable signs?

S

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Over time he needed a wheelchair and his care needs really escalated. I became aware that he was beginning to lose his battle. We always knew Uncle Volker was going to die eventually and we could see he was getting sicker. Despite the terrible sense of sadness felt when I heard he had died, there wasn’t that awful sense of shock.

C

S

You’ve never publicly talked about your uncle before - what made you want to support the 1MSg – one message - campaign?

Treatments and care have progressed a lot in treating MS since Uncle Volker’s day. Back then MRI scans didn’t exist and now that is commonplace. When I heard that 1 in 5 people living with MS were not coming forward to see a specialist at least once a year, it really brought home to me how important it is to get the message out that there are treatments available that will improve quality of life.

C

We at SLOAN! find with so many health conditions a key component is to break the stigma and educate people about their choices to give them the power back when they can often feel powerless.

S

It is so vital to break any stigma surrounding MS – it is simply not the death sentence once thought. In fact many with the disease live very productive, happy lives if they manage their MS well. I am supporting the 1MSg campaign because I want to encourage more people with MS to be proactive in seeking regular and quality engagement with specialist MS healthcare professionals. Doing so can help to ensure they are managing their disease in a way that’s best for them and their families as the MS landscape evolves and their situation changes.

C

S

We understand that Multiple Sclerosis is quite a changeable condition, do you have any advice for how to deal with that?

By its nature, MS is not a static disease so it is difficult to predict how MS will affect an individual. It can be difficult for patients with MS to know or to assess whether their condition is progressing without consultations with a specialist. This is why it’s so important to regularly see your MS team. Had my uncle been diagnosed today, he would have had much greater access to specialist care, integrated healthcare support and modern diagnostic and disease management technologies.

C

Dr Christian would like to share this personal message with our readers: “Inspired by my uncle’s experience of MS, I am urging all patients and their families to be as proactive as possible in engaging with MS-specialist healthcare professionals, so that their condition can be monitored and managed effectively.”

Photo courtesy of Stirling Media / Dr Christian Jessen at Collars & Coats Gala Ball

Profile for SLOAN! Magazine

SLOAN! 6th Edition  

In this issue: Exclusive celebrity interview with Julie Montagu, we also talk to Dr Christian Jessen about MS and hear what our cover star K...

SLOAN! 6th Edition  

In this issue: Exclusive celebrity interview with Julie Montagu, we also talk to Dr Christian Jessen about MS and hear what our cover star K...

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