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MS programme changed Caithness woman's life 'totally and absolutely'


By Gordon Calder

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A Caithness woman with multiple sclerosis has had her life "totally and absolutely changed" by taking part in a health and fitness programme designed to help manage the condition.

Lillias Rapson, who is 38 and from Thurso, was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago although she has had the symptoms since she was 13. She took part in the 12-week MS Warrior Training Programme as she thought it would improve her general fitness and strengthen her muscles.

That, she hoped, would help her recover more quickly from the attacks of old and new symptoms that characterise her relapsing remitting MS. More than 15,000 people in Scotland live with the condition, one of the highest rates in the world.

The programme – run by Disability Training in collaboration with MS Society Scotland – proved life-changing for Lillias, and more than 18 months later she is physically and mentally fitter and is delighted to have dropped four dress sizes – from a size 22 to a size 14.

Lillias before she started the programme
Lillias before she started the programme

She said: "My main goal was always to improve my chances of recovering from relapses. I wanted to improve my life, to drop all the bad habits like smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily, which I’d used to cope with different things, and to take my health into my own hands.

"But it was also knowing that loss of mobility is a thing that happens with MS. Whether it happens immediately or over time, it happens. And I want to have the muscle tone there to be able to support myself through relapses."

The former IT worker, who gave up her job last year due to her condition, said she found MS Warrior "physically and mentally tough" but it was "completely worth it".

Lillias said: "I knew I was big before I started the programme but I didn’t realise how big I was. The programme has definitely changed the way I view myself. Now I’m able to see myself without wincing, whereas before I just couldn’t look. It helps you to see all of you as you are, which I think is very important."

Lillias dropped four dress sizes after being on the programme
Lillias dropped four dress sizes after being on the programme

Her symptoms include mobility and balance issues that sometimes lead to her using a walking stick or crutch; numbness and muscle spasms; dizziness; fatigue; speech and swallowing issues and tremors. She went blind in one eye 10 years ago and still experiences double vision and eye pain. Although her long-term memory is fine she struggles with short-term memories.

She said: "MS Warrior has totally and absolutely changed my life. I achieved stronger mobility and more confidence. Although I can’t run and I haven’t gained back any mobility, I feel more confident in myself. I can get up from the chair and walk across the room without my legs feeling weak or without feeling fatigued.

"Before it was quite normal to feel that way, just from walking that short distance. That’s amazing really, from spending years being fatigued and having weak and painful legs to not having that.

"I started the programme thinking I’ll just do the exercises and the healthy eating for 12 weeks and then that’ll be it, I can go back to my crisps and my fizzy juice and stuff. But then at the end of the 12 weeks you think to yourself, I really don’t want to do that. And that’s a good thing because it means you’ve decided you want better for yourself."


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