Anita Pavey still struggles to comprehend her multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
Speaking about the day doctors broke the news to her two years ago, the 54-year-old businesswoman says, through tears, it “still blows my mind”.
“I had to pick my jaw up off the floor – I was just absolutely shocked,” she says.
“That’s all I could think about from then on, and I didn’t know a lot about MS, I only knew what we were taught at school and from doing the MS Read-a-thon — that people with it can’t walk or lose mobility. People aren’t shown what MS really is.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system which often presents itself through symptoms such as vision issues, numbness and tingling, fatigue and brain fog.
For Anita, the symptoms began with a migraine while on a camping trip with family. The pain grew and grew, eventually leading to the loss of sight in Anita’s right eye.
After a week, she went to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where specialists ran test upon test, including an MRI on Anita’s brain and an “unpleasant” lumbar puncture on her spine.
Doctors then diagnosed her with MS. “I was just in shock because it was the eye doctor that told me I had MS and she just said it exactly like that,” she says.
“I swore at her first, and then I said, ‘what, no, it can’t be that.”
The onset of MS usually occurs in patients between their 20s and 40s. This was why the diagnosis knocked Anita for six.
“The only things I can pin point as a trigger when I speak to other people that have it are that I had glandular fever when I was younger and my immune system was down,” Anita says.
“Also, my job was very stressful. I worked in the media for 25 years, I was a graphic designer, and so stress was pretty full on for that job and I would get migraines.”
Anita, who has her own business in Mt Barker selling camper trailers with husband Mike, now manages the disease through medication and subtle lifestyle changes.
Anita says she is grateful for the help the MS Society of South Australia & Northern Territory has offered, which has included hosting Zoom seminars since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have done a lot of different seminars with the MS Society to learn more about it and figure out how to manage my fatigue and my stress levels, because that’s a big trigger,” she says.
“The MS Society provide you with so much information which is available online, they are always available to chat to, especially the nurse. I did do a fundraiser when I was first diagnosed and raised a bit of money for them as well.
“They also organise a support group in Mt Barker for people who have been diagnosed with MS and we meet every month to catch up and see how everyone is going.”
Multiple Sclerosis Society of SA and NT CEO Tim Ryan says this vital support would not be possible without the money raised from the MS Game Changer Lottery.
“The MS Game Changer Lottery is our largest annual fundraiser. Every ticket sold helps the Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Australia & Northern Territory to deliver essential services such as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy and nursing support to help thousands of South Australians living with multiple sclerosis to live well” Tim says.
Two $1 million grand prizes are available in this year’s lottery, and have the best odds to win one in SA.
Winners can walk away with either of the $1 million grand prizes, while MS Gold VIP Club members will go into an exclusive draw which can see them win a Toyota Rav 4 Hybrid, valued at $41,070.
There are more than 4600 in prizes to be won, with a 1 in 15 chance of winning a prize.
Money raised in the lottery will help the Multiple Sclerosis Society of SA and NT continue to fund research to help people like Anita.
“I want to make more people aware and educate people about what it is and what it is about and not to judge people about how they look or walk or speak or move ,” she says.
“Because you don’t know what’s affecting them deep down and what they are dealing with day-to-day.
“I really don’t know what the future holds, I’m just taking it one day at a time as MS affects everyone differently.”