My MS story began back in 2006, but to understand more about how the disease has impacted my life, we need to go back further.
From being a child I've always been active, mainly with a football, and with the influences of televised sporting events like golf, cricket and tennis I'd pick up a stick, bat or racket and behave like I was going to be the next sporting superstar! I like to think I was alright at most sports, but that is fairly irrelevant; I enjoyed them, often playing well after it went dark having convinced my Mum that I had actually done my homework.
That continued throughout my life, playing football at every given opportunity, golf as often as I could, and hill walking, rambling through the countryside, only stopping for the odd pub. I was always at my happiest when I was doing something physical, preferably outside, but I liked going to the gym too. Being physically fit was something I took for granted.
Then along came MS, stealing from me one thing at a time.
Football went first. I didn't feel safe, I couldn't react to things quick enough. I was either going to do myself some harm, or others. I still had running, mainly on a treadmill, until the footdrop saw to that. I tried running more slowly, and that worked for a time, but I had to stop in the end; my right leg just didn't react quick enough. I still had my golf and walking, I thought I'd be okay... Until it stole my balance, and the walking became more difficult too. So no more golf or walking.
Over the last 12 years, MS has continually stolen from me.
Is it going to stop? Signs are that it won't. But surely there's not much else it can steal.
One thing it won't take is my ability to smile. Physically it might, but inside I will smile and laugh on. Life is to be enjoyed, whatever it throws our way, we can forge some enjoyment.
But if we could just stop MS once and for all... Maybe it'll be too late for me to run around like a headless chicken on a football field again, but wouldn't it be good!
The Balls To MS story
"I can't run marathons or climb mountains, but I can collect balls!"
That was the phrase I used shortly after the inception of Balls To MS.
I was given a rugby ball by my friend which was signed by the Wales squad during the 2017 Six Nations. The initial idea was to raffle it off, or auction it to raise a few hundred quid to donate to The MS Society. Now I don't decry even a penny being donated to any charity, but I thought this magnificent gesture deserved something more. But at the time was unsure what.
Then I had a little thought... What if I could collect all four home nations balls - I could get a few thousand for those. My wife then said, why restrict it to those four, why not collect balls from all sports. And so Balls To MS was born.
Thanks Anthony Daley - you lit the fuse!
The challenge was on to get a second ball. Steve Curwood from Fleetwood Town FC was quick to fill that void. Then, with the help of friends - Dave Wood deserves a name check - I got to 10, then 25, then 50. In the end I almost made 100! Not all are balls, which was the original intention, but when I was offered a signed Gloucester Rugby Union Shirt I wasn't about to refuse.
I (again with the help of friends) arranged an event, The Balls To MS Charity Dinner, which took place on Friday 5 October 2018 at Bolton Whites Hotel at The University of Bolton Stadium, home of four-time FA Cup winners Bolton Wanderers. As well as having a wonderful three-course meal and lots of fun, we managed to raise thousands of pounds for The MS Society through auctioning some of the most prestigious items. The other items are available on eBay.