A COURAGEOUS multiple sclerosis sufferer who lost £180,000, her engagement and the prospect of having children to the disease, is on a mission to support others.
Jan Lambert, 42, was diagnosed with the degenerative condition 18 years ago, when she had a steady job as a hairdresser, a mortgage and was engaged to be married.
After years of having minor physical problems like bladder weakness, going back to her late teens, the Morley resident was wrongly diagnosed several times.
Jan, who is now chair of Leeds MS Society, said: “By the time I had got into my mid-20s I had already pieced it together.
“I kept dropping scissors and my bladder wasn’t working properly. I thought, ‘At my age I should feel better than this.’”
The news that she had been expecting eventually came, before her relapse-remitting MS – which causes the loss of physical functions unexpectedly – took her vision away from her.
She said: “I went completely blind in my car. I’d just been out to cut someone’s hair and luckily I got hold of my sister to drive me home.
“It took a year for it to gradually return and my fiance, who was younger than me, didn’t cope well with it. It was frightening.”
Her plans to start a family were put into perspective as she decided that the risk of passing on the incurable disease was too great. She soon split with her partner.
A short time later, the critical illness cover on her mortgage was declared void as her mortgage company claimed she had known of her MS previously, in the process losing her around £180,000.
Her condition improved slowly but her luck did not.
Jan said: “I had just got my vision back and got my own business, when my legs just quit on me and I had to give it all up.
“I really did hit a low and I felt so alone. There was no support for MS sufferers in Leeds.”
Jan was wheelchair-bound for three years, during which she decided to visit family in America, which changed her attitude after she was surrounded by positive-thinking relatives.
She was soon walking on crutches.
Jan then set up support group, MS Chat, which led to her involvement with the MS Society.
She said: “I’ve never been in denial about it, that is why seeing people in extreme cases doesn’t affect me.
“I want to help people, as I’ve experienced relapsing disability.”
Now looking to pass on her experience on to others, Jan has been chair of the society for two years after getting involved to give MS sufferers in Leeds the support that she never had.
She added: “I think I just enjoy my life as much as I can.
“I fit my life around MS rather than it ruling my life. I still live but within parameters.
“I’ve learned that to every negative there is a positive, as hard as it may be to see it, and one of the hardest things that people can learn to do is ask for help.”
* For more information, visit: www.mssociety.org.uk or call the Leeds branch on 0800 111 4324.