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Meet - Derlene McPhail

Scotland, United Kingdom

When were you diagnosed with MS? February 2022

What type of MS do you have? Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)

#1: Can you tell us a little about your journey with MS. How did you feel about your initial diagnosis and how it has affected your life?

Before my MS journey began, I worked for 15 years within the community as a healthcare support worker. My job involved working with patients who were living with MS. I remember the first time I heard the words Multiple Sclerosis. I had no idea what it was or how it affected patients. Over the years, I always had compassion for the difficulties these individuals faced and aimed to gain an understanding of the illness. Come 2020, I began experiencing neck pain, and I was diagnosed with spinal lesions, with no known cause. Fast forward to February 2022, I was studying as a first-year nursing student, I had just returned from a holiday and was preparing to start a nursing placement in the hospitals. Over the course of a few days, I gradually began to lose sensation in my legs and torso until eventually, I lost all sensation from my chest down. I spent the next 2 weeks going through several tests. On February 14th, it was confirmed that I had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

For me this didn’t come as a big shock, I knew I fit the criteria for MS. I chose to accept my diagnosis fairly quickly, as I knew this acceptance was the only way, I was going to be able to face it more positively. I made a decision then that it would not hold me back or define me. I completed an online placement while I was undergoing testing, and within a week of diagnosis, I started another nursing placement. Since then, I have continued my studies and I am now through my second year of nursing.

#2: What MS symptoms do you have and how do you manage them on a daily basis?

During my relapse, I experienced a loss of sensation from the chest down, but fortunately, I regained most of my sensation back. However, I still have occasional sensory loss in my fingers and legs. Pain can be one of my most common issues. I know stress is a common trigger for MS, so I try to prioritize managing it in my life. I've opted to use a DMT called Kesimpta, which has been effective so far, but I don't see it as a magic fix. I believe it takes more than just a DMT. I also live a life of sobriety, and try to maintain a healthy diet and regularly keep fit. I took part in my first 10k MS walk which gave me motivation knowing, I could help others in the same position as me. I am far from being in perfect health. But I continue every day to make small changes and there’s always room for improvement.

#3: Who/What has been your most important support system?

My family and partner have been my biggest support. They are always there when I need reassurance and support on my more difficult days.

#4: Do you use any accessories like canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to manage daily activities?

At the moment, I manage daily activities independently without any assistance.

#5: How do you stay positive and motivated in your daily life? What do you do for self-care?

I try to enjoy the little things in life. I try not to lose myself in all the "what could be’s" in life and just appreciate how things are! My job gives me purpose and keeps me motivated. I find physical exercise helps to keep my mood more positive and also keeps me feeling better.

#6: Your story and experiences with MS are incredibly valuable and can provide encouragement and motivation to others in the community. What words of advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with MS or going through a challenging time right now?

Years of working with MS patients and now being diagnosed has made me realize how little people know about MS. It has also made me realize how important it is to spread awareness. Although a diagnosis of MS can be difficult, It has shown me that no matter how tough life gets there’s always the option to see the positive, stay strong, and never give up on your dreams.

#7: Have you started a business or mission related to MS? Can you tell us about it and what inspired you to take this step?

Although I don't have a specific mission or business, I make it a point to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis. Follow me on IG: @delsober

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