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08 September 2020
Tags: News

Women of Women’s Health Week – Catherine and Emily

Catherine Brooks is a successful corporate lawyer, writer and mum to two young kids. She also lives with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Catherine was a fit 23 year-old when she experienced her first MS attack.

“I was super fit, spending a lot of time at the gym and going on hour-long beach walks every night,” she recalls. “On one such walk, I noticed that I had pins and needles in my feet. That night, the sensation moved up my legs and by the next morning I was feeling very strange.

“I went off to the local GP who said I’d probably pinched a nerve during a weight session and told me to take vitamins.”

But then, things took a turn for the worse.

“The next day I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, and I had severe spasticity in my legs, so my GP rushed me into the St Vincent’s hospital neurology clinic where I was promptly admitted to emergency for further testing,” says Catherine.

These further tests led to a diagnosis of MS.

Early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can make a huge difference in terms of treatment and management.

Champion cyclist and MS advocate Emily Petricola, who has enjoyed a brilliant career as a Paralympian, was diagnosed quickly with MS.

“My doctor sent me straight to a neurologist who found a big lesion across my C2 and C3 spine,” Emily recalls. “When they told me multiple sclerosis was one of the possibilities, my stomach sank and I knew that was what it would be. It was an intuition.”

Catherine and Emily want to urge women and girls to get their niggles checked out. It’s important to remember that any health concerns, no matter how small, are worth investigating.

Like Catherine, Emily has learnt how to balance the challenge of living with MS with success in work and life. Emily’s swift diagnosis is the optimum ‘diagnosis experience’, as this enables the opportunity for appropriate treatment options and a management plan that will maximise brain health.

“I was lucky in that the diagnosis was quick. People with MS can go a long time before they get diagnosed and many get misdiagnosed to begin with because the symptoms can be so transient,” she says. “When they looked at my brain and spinal MRIs and found lesions in both, combined with other results from a lumbar puncture, the diagnosis was swiftly made.”

MS Australia is a Women’s Health Week 2020 Community Partner 

MS can be hard to diagnose and therefore we urge anyone with symptoms, or a niggle that is bothering them, to get checked out.

We know that early diagnosis leads to early treatment and less brain volume loss. So, early intervention maximises lifelong brain health. Access to an early and accurate diagnosis, based on best-practice evidence and expert medical opinion, including access to specialist clinical services, ensures that people with MS receive the right care, at the right time, by the right team in the right place. 

We also know that there is a high prevalence of women with MS; roughly 75% of people diagnosed are women. Also, MS is mostly diagnosed at an age when many women are focusing on a career or having a family, so the importance of listening to your body, noticing changes and seeking medical support is paramount.

With health issues such as COVID-19 placing stress on our lives, it’s important we don’t overlook our overall health and wellbeing.

This Women’s Health Week we urge everyone to check it.  Don’t regret it!

For more information on health checks, visit jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/health-checks

Photographer: Jesse Dragonetti

Source: MS Australia website