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MS fundraiser set to make a splash

Alyssa Martin at the 2021 MS Swimathon

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MS fundraiser set to make a splash

A multiple sclerosis diagnosis at a young age was devastating for Alyssa Martin, but the Bli Bli resident is living life to the full and now raising money for MS Queensland.

Alyssa Martin has never let the devastating diagnosis she received at 23 dictate her life.

At the age of 18 she began suffering from muscle weakness and fatigue. It progressed to optic neuritis, drop foot, loss of balance, vertigo, numbness and loss of sensation in one leg before a doctor finally told her, “I’m sorry, you have multiple sclerosis”.

“An ophthalmologist first told me and I just cried and felt so overwhelmed,” Ms Martin says. “All I had seen of MS was people in wheelchairs and assumed that’s what my future looked like.

“Being so young, I immediately thought I’m going to be disabled, I’m not going to be able to have children.”

MS is one of the most common conditions of the central nervous system, and can affect the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. There are more than 25,600 people living with MS in Australia, including more than 3970 in Queensland.

Now aged 35 and a mother of two young children, the Bli Bli woman says she lives each day to the fullest.

“MS isn’t a life sentence. It is part of my life, but it’s not my entire life. I don’t let it stop me being who I want to be,” Ms Martin tells My Weekly Preview. “What I’ve learnt over the years is that, if anything, the MS hasn’t stopped me from doing anything but to do what I can while I can.

“Tomorrow I might not be able to, so it does encourage me to live more now than ever before.”

Ms Martin manages her MS with medication and by keeping herself fit, both physically and mentally, and eating a healthy diet.

She says one of the biggest day-to-day challenges of living with her diagnosis is dealing with the Queensland heat.

“Heat increases already existing issues with fatigue and muscle weaknesses, and that flows on to weaknesses in balance and walking and my vision gets affected,” she says.

In an effort to help the thousands of Queenslanders living with the condition, MS Queensland is holding its annual Swimathon on the Sunshine Coast in March to raise vital funds for research.

The team-based event has been hosted locally since 2016 with the 2021 Mosaic Property Group MS Swimathon attracting 110 swimmers to raise more than $53,000 for the cause.

“We are in a space where there [are] nearly 4000 people in Queensland with MS and there is more and more opportunity for the development of new treatments and even working towards some cures,” Ms Martin says. “The only way we are going to have those outcomes is by raising funds.”

Ms Martin will participate in the 12-hour team event in 2022, with her team ‘Team Floaters’. “We are all going to float along at different times in the pool and it’s going to be fabulous.”

MS Queensland’s fundraising events manager Claire Hughes says the day helps provide MS information, specialist nursing services and wellness programs to patients. “It’s a great day out for anyone looking to take on a challenge for a good cause.”

The Mosaic Property Group MS Swimathon is happening in Caloundra on March 2. To register a team or donate visit msswimathon.com.au/sunshine-coast.

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