Quite soon after my MS diagnosis, a few people asked me when I would be giving up work. I was stunned.
Surely now, more than ever, I would need the security of a routine, wages and the confidence boost a rewarding job can give? It seemed to me that to stop work was an old-fashioned view and had no place in the 21st century, when there was so much understanding and support in place.
I stand corrected. Recent research uncovered the depressing facts:
- More than 75% of people with MS report that the condition has impacted their employment and career opportunities.
- Up to 80% of people with MS stop working within 15 years of the onset of the condition.
- Up to 44% of people with MS retire early due to their condition.
- People with MS lose an average of 18 working years, assuming a retirement at 60.
The report states that with the right support, people with MS could continue to live full and productive lives for much longer, yet during periods of economic downturn and job losses, people with long term health problems feel especially vulnerable.
Research shows that many employers lack knowledge about the condition and may not always understand that the needs of employees with MS can and should be accommodated in the workplace. MS is a ‘hidden disease’ and the extent of its impact is not visible to others and over 80% of us are affected by fatigue.
In my case, my chosen career path has veered off in a completely different direction than pre-MS. I was steadily building towards a new career once The Teenager was old enough for me to work full-time. I am a matter of months away from completing my second degree. It’s ironic. Just when my whole life was opening up, when I could put the years of child-care behind me and finally take on a much fuller role in my career, along comes MS and puts paid to my plans.
Life has a funny way of turning round and smacking us in the face when we least expect it. I could either crumple or make the best of a whole new situation and right now, I’m planning to work for as long as I possibly can.