If this is your first visit to Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me (IMSM) take your time navigating around the menus, widgets and website. The top menu contains advocacy-related posts. The bottom menu will guide you to a mix of posts about personal experiences and information about MS.
I am Willeke-Maya, a quirky, tenacious and neurologically compromised female expat living in Ireland since 2002.
MS knocked on my door in 2005. It was awkward, puzzling and easier said than done. I read the small print on the back of the “what to expect” book and knew it wouldn’t be a 365-day holiday. But, my diagnosis taught me one thing: the notion that no matter what happens, life goes on. Since then, life became more imaginative, engaging and determined.
IMSM grew from the desire to convey optimism through writing in 2011. By sharing thoughts, hopes and fears, it turned into a “Hhmm… I can’t remember writing that!” mix of personal stories and info about MS.
Through sheer luck of the Irish, I received an invitation to write for Novartis’s MS blog ‘Living Like You’ in 2014. Soon after, the Irish MS Society added my name to their list of writers to provide content for their own blog ‘MS & Me’ (not to be confused with the title of my own blog).
Winning awards was something we didn’t set out to do. But we did, eventually.
In 2014, ‘MS & Me’ was a finalist in the Ireland Blog Awards, alongside my own blog.
In 2015, ‘MS & Me’ won a silver award at the same Awards in the Corporate Best Health & Wellness category.
The following year, we were once again over the moon to hear that the blog had reached the final at the Ireland Blog Awards. It didn’t end there, though. In September 2016, the ‘MS & Me’ bloggers collectively received the Volunteer of the Year Award from MSI, as chosen by people with MS, their families and friends.
Novartis’s ‘Living Like You’ blog followed in the footsteps of ‘MS & Me’ by entering awards competitions, and won the Best Blog in the PR News’ Social Media Awards in the US. We were all running around giddy for a week.
Earlier this month (July 2017), ‘MS & Me’ received a nomination in the WEGO Health Awards as ‘Best Team Performance’. Please forgive me my lightheaded behaviour, so! (If you want to endorse ‘MS & Me’, you can find the link to the WEGO Awards below).
I believe it’s fair to say so that the ‘Living Like You’ as well as the ‘MS & Me’ writers share the same gratitude. Being nominated by the public means you are owed a big thank you for not just having our back, but also for sharing our words with hundreds of people. Your voice – though often unheard – means that MS isn’t a lonely illness, but a shared concern.
Finally, I want to thank both the staff of MS Ireland as well as the Novartis team for their continued belief. I get lyrical when I mention them, such is my appreciation for their vision and relentless support.