The fact that Canberra woman Anne Hill will crawl to reach something if her legs fail her, shows that multiple sclerosis will never take her positive and persistent spirit, even if it has taken her family business and home.
Her daughter, Laura Elphick, struggles to hold back tears when she talks of the illness, though the thought of her parents enjoying their first overseas trip – a surprise present from the children – replaces them with joy.
So, too, does learning of the groundbreaking findings about MS released on Friday.
Researchers have long associated less vitamin D in the blood with an increased risk of developing MS or of symptoms worsening.
But Professor David Booth from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research has discovered the genes that are actually associated with this link. So researchers can finally figure out how to benefit from it.
“Our job has been to use that information to use vitamin D to reduce the risk of MS and come up with better therapies,” he said. “With details of these genes, we can find new ways to treat MS.”
Multiple sclerosis, which affects more than 23,000 Australians, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. There are treatments available, but there is no cure.
Anne Hill was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS 10 years ago. She recently had to close her family newspaper business in Campbell because of weakened mobility and is in the process of selling her house due to having difficulty climbing stairs.
“I think the hardest part for me is seeing people do things I used to be able to do,” Mrs Hill said.
“Some days you feel better than others, but you get up and try not to look at the future, and deal with today. If the future throws me a handball, well I’ll just move sideways and catch it.”
Having lived in a farm before moving to Canberra, Mrs Hill and her husband David had never travelled. But for Christmas, their children bought them surprise tickets to the UK, which she was nervous but extremely excited about.
She was also pleased about the new research, and said she’d been taking vitamin D tablets for years because of the suspected link.
Meanwhile, her daughter, Ms Elphick had raised $60,000 for MS research in recent years. She hoped the funds would help future studies that lead to a cure someday.
“It is hard to get your hopes up,” she said. “As it’s something that changes your life forever, but all you can hope for is a cure … and research is what will make that happen.”