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Dean’s superpower – his unconditional love and care

Symptoms for people living with MS can include, but are not limited to, dizziness and balance problems, vision changes, loss of sensation in their limbs, fatigue, weakness, and pain. When symptoms present themselves, it can affect day-to-day activities and sometimes requires care and assistance from a loved one.

This week is National Carers Week (10-16 October), a week that is devoted to supporting, celebrating and raising awareness for the 2.65 million Australians who provide unpaid care and support to their loved ones. These incredible Australians care and support their close family and friends who have a disability, mental health condition, chronic illness, terminal illness, those who are ageing and anyone in need. To learn more about National Carers Week, please click here: https://carersweek.com.au/

So this week we would like to acknowledge and celebrate the many incredible carers who provide support and care to their loved ones with MS. One of them is Dean Pyke. Dean loves and lives with someone living with MS – his wife, Natalie.

Natalie was diagnosed with MS in 2018 when she was only 31 years old. However, Natalie’s first symptoms, numbness and tingling in her hands, already occurred in her early 20’s.

Natalie’s journey to her MS diagnosis was long – which is not uncommon, with many people diagnosed with MS experiencing varying symptoms, tests and diagnosis’ over months and sometimes years before receiving a confirmed diagnosis.

The months leading up to Natalie’s diagnosis were challenging for the duo, with numerous doctor’s appointments and hospital visits unable to provide any answers. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

During this time, Dean did all he could to support Natalie, admitting that prior to her diagnosis, the hardest part for him was feeling helpless as there was nothing he could do.

However, despite the many challenges they faced, Dean didn’t leave Natalie’s side. “Seeing Nat grow, be strong and deal with her diagnosis has been a massive motivation not only for myself, but for her family and friends too.”

Dean acknowledges that it can be hard seeing your loved one go through the challenges that MS brings, with his best advice being “to always stay positive and to offer your support always, even when you think they don’t need it. Sometimes simply reassuring them that they are not alone will mean a lot to them.”

Dean’s support does mean a lot to Natalie. Above all, Natalie is grateful to have Dean by her side through it all.

 “I probably do not voice my gratitude often enough to Dean. I do acknowledge and appreciate his support so much. It can be so frustrating to live each day with MS symptoms, however most of the time we will just push through the day pretending everything is ok. This inevitably takes a toll, and it’s usually our loved ones that cop the brunt of this frustration. Considering this, I guess I should also apologise (haha)! Please know, it’s not personal, we’re just tired.”

Before her diagnosis, MS wasn’t unknown to Natalie as she knew a couple of people living with MS, but she didn’t understand the full spectrum of what an MS diagnosis entailed.

At the time, Natalie admits to having the “it will never happen to me” attitude which, paired with a few visits to the GP putting her symptoms down to other causes, resulted in her not putting any further thought into it.

However, when Natalie was 30 years old, she began experiencing vision disturbances in her left eye. After seeing an Optometrist who didn’t notice any visible issues with her eye, Natalie put the vision changes down to stress.

Natalie’s vision issues remained, significantly impacting her everyday life, so she visited a GP who subsequently referred her to Emergency. Unfortunately, the trip to the Emergency Department provided no answers for Natalie, and neither did a second visit a few weeks later, when she presented with dizziness and blurry vision.

Following this, Natalie endured more GP visits and further disappointment, after receiving a plethora of diagnosis’ such as Labyrinthitis, migraines and anxiety, with her main cause of concern being persistent dizziness.

Only when Natalie begged to be referred to a specialist, she was finally diagnosed with MS following an MRI back in September 2018, which showed  optic neuritis and 5 brain lesions.

The confirmed diagnosis was a slight relief for Natalie and Dean as they finally received some certainty and could start moving forward thanks to available treatments.

Natalie’s diagnosis made her realise that she had always taken her health for granted, which is why she now ensures to never waste a day when she is feeling good.

Natalie still experiences the blurred vision in her left eye, tingling sensations, fatigue and dizziness, but says that “there is no better feeling than hearing the words ‘no new lesions’ after an MRI” and gives thanks to treatments that MS research has enabled.

Grateful for the researchers dedicating their time to improve the lives of people living with MS, Natalie believes that MS research has not only provided a means to slow disease progression, but it also provides hope – for her next MRI and for future generations.

The pair’s shared passion for MS research extends to their fundraising efforts, with the duo taking on The May 50K 2020 and 2021, and raising an incredible $6,942.07 in this year’s challenge together with their team. Natalie says “words cannot express my gratitude for the support of Dean, my family, friends and work colleagues. Likewise, I am so grateful for the researchers who have dedicated their lives to improve the lives of those living with MS.

To Dean and the other 2.65 million Australians providing unpaid care and support to a loved one – thank you for the unconditional love and support you provide day in and day out.

✨ “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.
For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” 💕

– Margaret Mead, anthropologist