One of my biggest passions in life are cars – or just anything that has four wheels and an engine. Back when I was living in South Africa as a boy, my dad and I would drive around the neighbourhood and I could always name the different cars when we drove past. Working with cars has always been a great outlet for me and nowadays, a way to help me take my mind off my condition.
A few years ago, I started getting headaches, blurred vision, stumbling to get to the bathroom or not be able to walk straight. I had no idea what was happening to my body, but my fighting spirit made me think it was something I could easily shake off. But it never did. Over the years, my day to day slowly changed, and being a mechanic became physically draining for me. It wasn’t until 2013 when I was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
At first, I was worried that having MS would be a burden for my wife and kids, it would stop me from doing simple, everyday activities, but also affect my job as a mechanic. But now, I have changed my perspective – MS does not make me who I am. I approach my condition with the same determination and courage that I approach life, I’ve never been the type of guy who finds it easy to sit on the bench or not do things for myself.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve put good systems in place and changed to a simpler lifestyle, for example changing my diet and reducing stress. This has really helped me stay strong and positive for myself but also my family. It’s funny, because although having MS has worsened my physical balance, it’s forced me to find balance in my day-to-day life. I now realise that it's not only OK, but essential, to be mindful about how hard I push myself. Listening to my body and making these lifestyle changes has really encouraged me to make my journey more purposeful for me and my family.
Living with MS can be a lonely place. For me this is exacerbated by the misconception that MS is a Western condition and does not exist in African communities. Today, I am channeling my fighting spirit to help change perceptions. By speaking up, and sharing my story, I hope to help others in my community with MS or care for a loved one with MS, find their voice.
This is what keeps me strong every day, knowing that my loved ones depend on me to be strong for them, my community, but also for myself.