“I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2017 while I was living in Germany. At that time, I was working in a hostel and picking up any other work that came my way. I was most definitely not career focused at that point of my life. I returned to New Zealand with a fancy new disease and not a lot of job prospects. It was an uncomfortable feeling and for many years post diagnosis, I lacked direction. I worked a handful of jobs over that period. Some good, some bad. Some paid well, others did what they were legally obliged to. But over that time, I also started to get more into the outdoors. Whenever I needed to clear my head, get my mental right, I’d head out into nature. I started volunteering at local conservation projects. Finding ways to experience the outdoors whichever way I could. Like many people, I found peace in nature.
In 2022, I managed to land a job with Predator Free Wellington. Our goal at PFW is to eradicate all stoats, weasels, possums and rats from the Wellington area to help restore our natural biodiversity and create a space where our native species can thrive.
I work as a Field Operator at PFW. My day normally consists of checking a lot of traps and bait stations, servicing our extensive camera network and responding to any pest incursions we detect in our active areas. Basically, I spend a lot of time stumbling around the hills of Wellington. Not something I thought I’d be doing when I was first diagnosed.
Prior to starting this Job, I had just completed 2 months tramping from Bluff to Picton. It was a life changing experience in many ways. But one of the most important things it showed me was that my body could still handle this sort of physical exertion. Like a lot of people with MS, I have been worried about the potential physical impact which this disease could have on me.
If I’m honest, a small part of the reason why I wanted to be in a physically demanding role was because I was scared that one day, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I still have that thought sometimes.
But the more time that passes, the more that thought becomes a positive motivator rather than a fear that keeps me up at night.
Today, I’m over a year into the job and I still love it. I wondered how being out in the conditions, in quite a physical job, would affect my symptoms. I don’t have what I’d call daily symptoms but rather, inconsistent symptoms. Once or twice every couple of weeks, I will experience tingling and some numbness in my legs or feet as I’m moving around the city. Besides causing a small amount of worry, the effects are very minor.
I consider myself very lucky, both on my MS journey so far, and where I am at in life. Since I was diagnosed 6 years ago, I’ve only had one relapse in 2020 from which I recovered fully. In that same time, I discovered the health benefits of the outdoors and managed to incorporate that into a career. A career that I will continue pursuing as long as my body allows it. A career that sounded improbable when I was diagnosed is now, I believe, keeping me healthy.
That, and the kick ass drugs that they have me on. Shoutout Tysabri.”