A WOMAN living with multiple sclerosis (MS) says that she will be "forever grateful" to a helpline that has helped her.

Shana Pezaro, from Portslade, was diagnosed with the disease 14 years ago and has used the MS Society helpline throughout her journey.

Despite living with MS Shana works voluntarily as a patient advocate and political activist in the UK and across Europe.

The call service is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month after launching in 1991 and last year, had over 26,000 enquiries on the phone, email and via Facebook messenger.

The 42-year-old said: “I called the MS Helpline when I was first diagnosed. My friends and family were absolutely wonderful, but I needed to talk about my fears and feelings without worrying about upsetting the person l was talking to. The helpline gave me that anonymity and distance.

“I was really nervous when l called the helpline for the first time. The person on the other end was really kind, reassuring and just asked gentle questions until suddenly l started pouring everything out.

“That was 14 years ago and l will forever be grateful. The helpline has been there for me at the hardest moments of my MS journey. And l know they will be there for me again if l need them in the future.”

The call service supports tens of thousands of people affected by MS each year and since 2020 the MS Helpline has extended the support it provides in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abi Stidston and Julie Gaynor are joint Heads of Helpline at the MS Society, they say: “We’re incredibly proud to be marking the MS Helpline’s 30th anniversary this month and would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers who’ve supported us over this time.

“Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK and it can be relentless, painful and disabling. We want to be here for everyone impacted by the condition, whatever they’re going through – whether they are newly diagnosed, have lived with the condition for decades, or are a family member of someone with MS.

"We do everything from providing emotional support, offering information around treatment and therapies to helping people with benefits and financial difficulties.”

An MS Nurse Service began at the start of the first lockdown and had 1560 enquiries during 2020; befriending calls have also been added.

The helpline also offers support from a Welfare Benefits Advisor, an MS Legal Advisor and a physical activity service.

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