Bo’ness dad is aiming to overcome MS
In the space of 18 months, Ian Black lost both his parents and discovered he had multiple sclerosis.
His mum Jean died in January 2015 and his dad Bob was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2016.
Then, just a few weeks later, some 100 metres from where he found out about his dad’s diagnosis, Ian was told he had MS.
It was a “punch in the guts” for the Bo’ness man who had always considered himself to be healthy, playing off a golf handicap of three to five and running the Glasgow 10K three times.
It was while training for his last 10K in 2015 that Ian noticed that something wasn’t quite right.
He recalled: “I kept on saying to my wife (Ann Marie) that I was training harder and running more than I ever had before but my times were getting worse.
“I’d had some symptoms – a tingling in my hand when I was driving which the GP put down to carpal tunnel.
“I noticed it most when I was playing golf. It’s a game of millimetres and I was off balance and getting dizzy; it even happened when I was cutting the grass.”
After completing the Glasgow 10K in 2015, but struggling to finish, Ian decided he could no longer ignore the issue.
His GP referred him to an ENT specialist initially who, following an MRI, referred him on to a neurologist.
Just weeks after his dad’s diagnosis, he was called back to hospital for the results.
Ian (52) said: “The scans showed demyelination which indicated I had MS.
“I was absolutely floored when they told me. It was about 100 metres from where dad was told his terrible news and he’d been so stoic.
“I felt like a bit of a wuss because I broke down a bit.
“I’d always considered myself to be healthy, eating five fruit and veg a day. I couldn’t believe it.”
Initially, Ian was in denial then he went through a period of grief when his dad died in August 2016.
Two months later, having played a very good medal round at Glenbervie Golf Club, his legs crumpled in the car park – and he couldn’t hold himself up.
But it wasn’t until a severe attack in February 2017 that he finally realised he could no longer ignore the diagnosis.
“I’m finance director for the Aberlour Childcare Trust but had to take three weeks off because I couldn’t get off the couch or up and down the stairs,” said Ian.
“My legs wouldn’t work properly; I was so fatigued.”
Rather than watch daytime TV, Ian started researching MS and found the charity Overcoming MS (OMS) – it proved to be a life changer.
“Google is a great resource but it also throws up all the worst case scenarios and quacks offering miracle cures ... for a cost,” he said.
“Somehow I found OMS in amongst it all, which offered to send me a free book.
“It was written by an Australian doctor, Professor George Jelinek, who cut out the medical mumbo-jumbo and backed up every fact in it with scientific evidence.
“George has MS but you’d never believe it if you met him; he looks fighting fit.
“He explained why making lifestyle changes could change your prognosis; he was living proof of that.
“I always thought I’d been healthy before but I had a typical Scottish diet too with a lot of red meat and dairy.
“In hindsight, I was a candidate for MS without ever realising it and there will be thousands of people just like me right now too.
“That’s the tragedy; I could have minimised my chances if I’d only known.”
However, rather than crying over spilled milk Ian decided to start making the lifestyle changes promoted by OMS and the professor.
He said: “I’m often asked if I’m a vegan because I’ve cut out red meat and dairy.
“I feel like a bit of a fraud because I’m not choosing to do so for ethical reasons; its purely for my health. I don’t miss it though. There are a lot of really good alternatives out there now.”
While he’s not overcome MS yet, Ian hopes Ann Marie and their children, Jamie (26) and Alison (22), will one day be cheering him over the Glasgow 10K finish line.
He said: “Once my symptoms improved I realised that I could heal.
“I swim and go to the gym now, rather than playing golf.
“My walking gait is quite different but I’m not giving up hope of doing the 10K again. That’s my ambition.”
Ian has shared his story to raise awareness of OMS and the difference it is making to people all over the country.
He added: “It really has been life-changing. It offered hope and gave me something I could do for myself.
“Even if this article helps one other person with MS, I’ll be delighted.”
Video helps spread the word
Ian Black recently appeared in an Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) film, which has been shortlisted in the 2020 Charity Film Awards.
Entitled Imagine Overcoming MS, it features seven people from around Britain who live with multiple sclerosis (MS). Each tells the story of their diagnosis, symptoms and the hope they found through Overcoming MS (OMS).
Ian said: “I enjoyed sharing my story and being part of the video and I’m so pleased it is helping others with MS, by offering real hope.
“It was viewed by over 10,000 people in the first week alone. Aberlour is also up for an award in another category so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them both!”
The OMS film was created to raise awareness of its work and to reach more people diagnosed with MS.
Some 65,000 people took part in the first public vote to determine the 2020 shortlist.
OMS is now urging supporters to take part in the second vote to help the charity become a category winner.
People can watch the video and vote at charityfilmawards.com/videos/imagine-overcoming-multiple-sclerosis.
Overcoming MS is a global charity which educates, supports and empowers people with MS.
It promotes a seven-step recovery programme, an evidence-based and rigorously researched diet and lifestyle modification approach developed by Professor George Jelinek, an award-winning professor of emergency medicine and scientific researcher.
The programme spans diet, exercise, vitamin D, stress reduction, meditation and medication, if needed.
To find out more, visit overcomingms.org.