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Never give up on your dreams”: Royal Stoke nurse completes London Marathon two years after MS diagnosis

A Royal Stoke nurse has successfully run the London Marathon just two years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the start of MS Awareness Week. 


Sian Fern, a senior sister on the Critical Care Unit at Royal Stoke University Hospital completed the 26.2 mile course around the capital last Sunday after being told she would never be able to run another marathon because of her condition.


Sian credits her “brilliant and fantastic” University Hospital of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) colleagues for helping her have “a day up there with the best in my life.”


She said: “In 2022 I was diagnosed out of the blue with MS. I was regularly running and fell over a few times but thought that was due to something off the roads. I then began to experience dizziness, regularly tripped over my own feet, and light-headedness. So I booked in at the GP who did some assessments. Until this point, I wasn't aware that I couldn't walk in a straight line or put one foot directly in front of the other without falling to one side. My GP agreed with me it was probably inflammation from an earlier bout of Covid and should settle down soon.


“So I continued trying to run and continued working. At this point I was struggling with the stairs and was finding myself walking a lot slower than my friends which was unusual. I then had an episode where I couldn't find the brake in the car with my right leg and fell again whilst out running, and knew it was yet again time to go back to the GP.


“She sent a referral to a neurologist at UHNM, and by this point I knew it must have been something serious. I was finding putting keys in doors difficult, struggling to concentrate, was extremely tired and struggling to write. The neurologist performed further tests and sent me for an urgent MRI. I went in for my MRI with tears running down my face, being unable to wipe them away.


“It was few days later that I was back in the neurologist’s office for more tests with the same symptoms. At this point I was struggling to walk and it felt like I was dragging something separate to my body around with me. He sat me down, and after doing the tests said I unmistakably have MS, and have had for a long time.


“It was diagnosed as highly active Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS), and I would need a high dose of steroids and to be started on a disease modifying treatment as soon as possible. I was also told no strenuous exercise and no stress, so no work. My whole world at the time fell apart.


Sian, who has worked in Critical Care for 16 years and previously run five marathons, was able to complete the London Marathon in a time of five hours and thirty-five minutes, alternating between walking and running and with the help of a walking stick and ankle brace.


She said: “Over the last two years I have managed to gradually get back to running, but not as it was before. I now must run using a stick and have a brace on my right ankle. I also can’t run for longer than a mile before I have to walk for a period of time, due to my leg dragging and my body temperature rising which exacerbates my symptoms of the leg dragging and dizziness.


“After being told and was told I probably wouldn't run a marathon again, never did I think that I would be doing the London Marathon which has always been a dream of mine. The day was up there with the best days in my life. It wouldn’t have been possible without the neurology and MS teams at the Royal Stoke. They were brilliant and fantastic as always and I cannot fault the care provided. Although things look a bit different now, I truly do owe them my life, as running is my life.


“At some points in our lives we are all faced with adversity, however if you want something that badly then you have to go out there and get it. Never give up on your dreams whatever that is, even if you have to achieve them a little differently than what you imagined.”



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