07 MARCH 2023

Hannah BennettThis fundraising superstar is joining you at the 2023 Canberra MS Walk Run + Roll and she has already passed her initial fundraising goal of $1,000! She’s raised $1,134 so far to fight MS and that number continues to grow.

Katie says, “For me personally the biggest thing at the moment is that the MS Walk Run + Roll represents a genuine challenge.”

“These days, walking is a challenge. I used to walk a lot, I used to be very active. It’s been very confronting that walking a kilometre has become a challenge. It’s a really good opportunity for me to know it’s going to be a challenge to get to the finish line, but I get to make a difference at the same time.”

She’s committed to walking 10km in May at the 2023 Canberra MS Walk Run + Roll. In January this year, Katie was unable to walk 1km.

“You get buoyed along by the enthusiasm of everyone there. It’s going to be a huge achievement. Doing it as part of this event, it’s something really positive I can do for myself whilst helping others at the same time.”

Katie was diagnosed with MS in September last year.

At the beginning of the year, she began feeling dizzy and lightheaded.

Initial doctor visits diagnosed it as vertigo, so Katie pushed through but was sent for an MRI to investigate.

Before her results came through, her symptoms progressed to the point where she was so nauseous and had such bad double vision she was unable to contact anyone for help using her phone because she couldn’t see properly.

“I didn’t know what was happening to me. When it settled, I didn’t go to the hospital because I thought it was vertigo. I felt marginally better during the day and then it happened again, so I went to the hospital. I told them about the MRI and they looked up the results and said we think you’ve got MS.”

“It was quite a shock. It was horrible.”

“It was really, really confronting and upsetting.”

For Katie, some symptoms she’s experienced for a long time – severe back pain, neck pain, leg numbness and weakness – all began to make sense.

“It’s too much of a coincidence I’ve been in pain for 5 years and there was never a clear reason for it.”

“My major symptoms are fatigue and double vision that is exacerbated by hot and cold temperatures.

“Due to the double vision, I couldn’t drive for 9 months. It was pretty depressing.”

“I have really, really struggled.”

Despite losing some independence through being unable to drive or ride her beloved horse, Katie didn’t let MS stop her. She is focused on small wins such as short walks in the garden to pick fruit and get some sunshine with her cat, Tess.

“The big thing for me is that if I do physical things my mental health gets better.”

“Not being able to go for a walk or ride my horse – it would set me off into a depressed spiral.”

“I discovered that I can’t just go out and walk 10kms anymore. I couldn’t walk 1 kilometre in January, but with trial and error I found that if I pace myself, I can go a lot further. I found that I could walk for 15 minutes before I started to regret it. At 18 minutes, I’d pay for it for hours or days.

“But if I make myself sit down after every 15 minutes to recover, I can walk a lot further. The longest walk I’ve done since my diagnosis is 6km, which feels like a real achievement and I am really proud of myself.”

“I’ve now applied the same to horse riding. I set a timer to get off after 15 minutes. It makes me so happy to be back in the saddle.” “[In] day to day life, I have my limitations but I’m learning to manage them. Because I’m feeling more confident, I feel more positive about the future. These days things are pretty good.” One thing Katie loves about the MS Walk Run + Roll is that it’s funding life-changing services at MS Plus.

She personally knows the difference our services, like Plus Connect – our free gateway for people with MS, their loved ones and carers to get guidance and support – make to people living with MS, particularly after diagnosis.

“I’ve used Plus Connect which I found really helpful and fantastic.”

“Plus Connect arranged for someone from Plus Peer Support to give me a call about some local peer support groups – both face-to-face and online, so I can access support even if I am unable to drive. I think it will help me a lot to have someone else to talk to who understands.”

“My Plus Support person is helping me organize an exercise physiologist and chronic disease plan with my GP. I have found her extremely helpful. They are so responsive – you don’t have to wait for an appointment, you can just call when you need help. I love the fact there’s someone available if you need help. It makes a huge difference to know that they are there.”

“They just get it. It’s amazing.”

While Katie wishes that no one would live with MS and the park would be empty on event day, she is grateful to all those who show up to the 2023 Canberra MS Walk Run + Roll for the show of support and raising vital funds that make services like Plus Connect possible.

“It’s wonderful that people do this because they know someone with MS. Those without MS may not understand how much they are helping. When you’re unwell and newly diagnosed and you’re a bit in shock – it’s so daunting. It is so wonderful people do it even though they maybe don’t fully understand it. The support you can get through MS Plus is amazing and completely life changing. I’m incredibly grateful. It’s wonderful that people do it.”