A YOUNG Cork woman who was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis), decided she had no other option but to get herself better again for the sake of her kids, her future and anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation.
Christine Duff believes she became unwell due to a build up of anxiety, stress and uncertainty in her life over years, and having made radical changes to it, is now celebrating two years symptom free.
Now the 34-year-old solo mum wants to help others live happy, healthy lives and reach their full potential.
Christine, originally from Ballincollig, suffered random numbness in her thumb and fingers from as far back as 2014, but in 2019 it worsened dramatically. The beauty therapist also suffered weekly migraines, and a constant pain/dull ache in her neck and shoulders. It got to the stage where she could hardly hold a pen and at one point she thought she genuinely feared she was losing her mind.
Christine was with her mum when the call came through from her GP flagging some serious health concerns, she remembers.
“It was the tears my mom cried that I remember most that day as she took the phone to hear what the doctor just said.
“I felt like I was having an out of body experience as all I wanted to do was comfort my mom and take away her worries for me.
“All my dad wanted to do and still wishes he could do is take the diagnosis for himself and let it be him and not me. As heart-breaking as that is to hear, it’s the reality for many families in this situation.
“The person with a diagnosis is affected of course but the ripple effect in the family is never given much thought.
“I went straight into a zone of deciding it would be fine and I phoned a friend who I knew could help me. That was Friday June 28, 2019, by the Monday morning I was in hospital with my neurologist. Two more MRIs, a lumber puncture copious amounts of tests later I was given a diagnosis on July 3.
“We were flying to Lanzarote on the 5th so for my whole stay in hospital I was focusing on my kids, my parents and my holiday.
“I just thought, my kids need me to be OK! Also, as a single mother I didn’t have the option to focus on the worst case scenario. I decided in my head I would be fine. I would make myself OK again. If I was healthy before, I can be again,” Christine decided with characteristic determination.
She says that as well as her kids, her mother is her inspiration in life: “I get my fight from her. She lost her mom and sister to cancer when she was very young and we nearly lost her after she had a still-born baby and a missed diagnosis of pre-eclampsia when myself and my brother were young, so I used my mother’s strength to get myself through it.”
She believes she became unwell as a result of a build up of stress over years, and by not speaking up for herself in different situations.
A beauty therapist who has worked in the industry for more than 15 years, she dived straight into finding a solution to make herself well.
“I worked with a life coach, I tried alternative therapies such as molecular hydrogen, acupuncture, and cranial sacral therapy. I also went back to college that October, less than 12 weeks after the diagnosis, and trained as a life coach with neuroscience and received my diploma and a QQI level 6 qualification.”
Fast forward and this July Christine’s celebrating two years symptom free: “I’m healthier, happier and more excited than ever for life. Although my neurologist cannot ever tell me my illness is gone, it is completely inactive and dormant. That for me means more than anything. I am living symptom-free and do not take any weekly daily or monthly medication.
“My doctors would agree that reducing and managing stress has definitely contributed to my good health, and a change in mindset has brought forward more positive possibilities and opportunities than I could have ever imagined. My yearly MRI is due in a few months where I will be visualising a clear result again. The 45 minutes in the tunnel never gets easier but the result is rewarding.”
Now Christine says she wants to show others that life is for living.
“If anyone or anything in your life is not working for you right now, you absolutely can get away from it or them and make the changes.
"My body was telling me for years in subtle ways that I was not well but I didn’t listen until it erupted like a volcano to the point I lost sensation and mobility and needed urgent attention. So find the courage to make yourself heard. Do what you need to do to feel good and calm and content inside. Make the changes, take the chances and allow yourself permission to change because it is absolutely possible,” she said.
Christine now combines her work as a beauty therapist with her work as a life coach and is mum to her 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
“I focus a lot on helping people find their confidence and speaking up. Especially those that cannot see a way past a difficult person/situation in their life. My final point is for people to know that there is always a way and always something to look forward to. You just need to believe in yourself first.”
The young woman is giving a Ted Talk in October in Tralee on ‘New Beginnings’. Her re-occurring message is:’Listen to your gut feelings. Your body will give you answers to everything and everyone. Pay attention to your body and always speak up for yourself.”