Having worked in the disability space as a physiotherapist for many years, helping those who suffer from MS and other neurological disorders to live a better life, it was ironic that Irene was herself diagnosed with MS in 2019.
It was on a trip to Melbourne for work Irene developed a headache hat she couldn’t shake. She felt dizzy, lightheaded, and just ‘not right’.
Irene woke up in the morning feeling so unsteady that she had to hold onto the walls in order to stay upright.
Upon her return to Sydney, Irene had another attack which also affected her vision and caused her to lose sight in one eye.
It was then that she had a brain MRI and was diagnosed with MS.
“In hindsight I had symptoms for some time,” Irene recalls, ‘but as usual you just write it off as being tired, stressed dehydrated or whatever.”
Born to Greek immigrant parents, Irene is one of five children and has a very large extended family.
“Let’s say I had a very ethnic upbringing,” says Irene, “I did Greek school, Greek dancing…you name it I did it.”
Irene’s parents worked really hard in the family business, which was a fish and chip shop, and so from a very young age she was taught the value of hard work, determination and ‘getting involved’.
“What’s really difficult when dealing with MS is the unique and unpredictable course of the disease, both in severity and duration,” says Irene.
“Some people have chronic, daily symptoms, while others experience intermittent flare-ups, and some have symptoms that may lay dormant for years.”
For now, there is no cure for MS.
There are, however, a number of treatment options available to help manage symptoms and slow progression of the disease.
“Personally what has really helped for me is my diet,” Irene shares.
“I found that cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy at times is really helpful.
“I also found that just compartmentalising my life down to my 6 monthly MRIs and just going for no new lesions. Using those as my marker points was really helpful.”
For Irene, the hope of inspiring others to soldier on, regardless of the unknown, is what drives her push forward and bravely tell her inspiring story.
“I really hope to show that my journey is something different. That this perceived adversity is actually an opportunity to overcome something.”