A RETIRED mum and grandmother from Denbighshire living with multiple sclerosis (MS) has spoken about the support provided by the MS Society to people across North Wales when she was featured in a BBC Lifeline Appeal.

Val Simmons, from Rhuddlan, was diagnosed with MS in 2008 after three years of unexplained symptoms.

She joined the committee of her local group of the MS Society – covering Conwy and Denbighshire – shortly after she retired in 2018 and is now the group coordinator.

The group has been featured in a TV appeal on BBC One to help raise awareness of MS and support for the MS Society’s vital work.

Val says: “I’d be lost without the group; it’s given me such a focus and purpose since leaving work.

"The group is full of lovely people – we support one another.

"I can sometimes feel a bit embarrassed about my MS – but not with others with the condition, we all understand.”

Val was diagnosed with MS after experiencing a range of symptoms, including temporary sight loss in one eye, pins and needles in her hands and feet and numbness down the right side of her body.

Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, with 5,600 in Wales.

MS damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think.

The MS Society’s BBC Lifeline Appeal focuses on the research the charity funds as well as the support it provides through its MS Helpline and local groups around the UK.

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The Conwy and Denbighshire group provides a monthly social event where people can talk to others for support, hear from a guest speaker or play a game. Afternoon teas and an annual dinner are also popular with members.

The events offer people a chance to meet others with the condition and reduce isolation.

Each week the group also provides access to an online Tai Chi class and anyone in Wales affected by MS can take part.

Other MS Society groups in Wales host different exercise classes each day of the week.

For exercise fan Val, it’s made a huge difference.

Val says: “The exercise classes give me a real buzz - I leave on a high and feel like I’ve done something good for myself.

"I attend the class every week and many others do too.”

On taking part in the BBC Lifeline Appeal, Val was delighted and hopes it raises money for the charity and encourages more people to reach out for support.

She added: “It was a privilege to be filmed – we were delighted when the BBC asked if they could come to our group social.

"I hope it encourages more people with MS to contact their local group, as well as raise funds for the charity.” 


Denbighshire Free Press: Tom KerridgeTom Kerridge

The Michelin-starred chef, Tom Kerridge, presents the appeal for the MS Society.

He knows about the impact multiple sclerosis can have.

His dad was diagnosed with MS when he was six, and sadly died when Tom was just 18-years-old.

Tom said: “My father had MS and I’ve seen first-hand how it can not only affect the person with the condition, but send great ripples through family and friends.

"So I’m very happy to be part of any form of help or recognition for understanding and awareness of MS.

“He lived with MS for over 10 years and progressively it got worse.

"He went from using a walking stick to a wheelchair to then being bedridden.

"It hugely affected his ability to communicate and he was in need of constant care, eventually in a home, before he passed away in his mid-forties.

“Please watch and share the BBC Lifeline Appeal! This condition is huge, many people are living with it daily.

"The support and understanding this appeal will generate of how it affects people, the awareness it raises, will make a big difference to many lives.”

Shelley Elgin is director for Wales at the MS Society.

She said: "MS is relentless, painful and disabling.

"Our BBC Lifeline Appeal will help us raise vital awareness and much needed funds.

"We hope it will also encourage more people to reach out to us and use our services."

The MS Society’s Lifeline Appeal was broadcast in late June.

It is available to watch back online for three weeks at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0018skm

For information on local MS Society groups, go to www.mssociety.org.uk/nearme 0808 800 8000