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MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Poetry, the last polar bear on earth, Wales Millennium Centre, Word Ward -

It wasn’t so much an argument, more like a disagreement, with a guy who came up to me after a reading I did recently. I finished off on a poem about Multiple Sclerosis and how having it hasn’t changed me.

The guy didn’t say what his illness was but he went… “You are wrong. Of course being ill changes us. You are a different person now.”

I was diagnosed with MS in 2016 but I had been unwell for years and years before that. At one point I couldn’t feel the entire right half of my body and I was so tired all the time I just couldn’t do anything, even the things I enjoyed the most, like sex.

Back and fore the doctors’ surgery I went with my notebook of different symptoms – I must’ve looked like a right hypochondriac. I was sent to different specialists in different departments of the hospital until finally an MRI scan and a neurologist revealed all these scars on my brain and spinal cord. And then he went and put a name on all of those years of being ill: Multiple Sclerosis.

Cool.

So, did I walk into that neurologist’s office that afternoon as me, the person I had been for 28 years in all my glory and mischief, and was it like Stars in Their Eyes… did I suddenly walk out of that office into a puff of smoke and transform into a different person?

Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be... an emotional wreck.

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Mari Ellis Dunning, Mental health, Multiple Sclerosis, Poetry, Rhian Elizabeth, Wales -

Morning. Lush weather.

Parthian are sending us out on yet another exotic trip – the next date on the last polar bear on earth tour is tomorrow night at Ye Olde Murenger House, Newport, and it kicks off at 7.30PM.

Pontypridd, Cardiff, Neath, Swansea and now Newport – I’m living the dream. In all fairness, I did spend a month in Sweden a few weeks ago, so I’m not complaining.

In Newport I’m sharing the bill with Mari Ellis. I met Mari a few years ago now through the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award. She won first prize in the competition and I won second (a scandalous decision, if you ask me).

We both won those prizes with our short stories. Mari's was about a dolphin and mine was about some old ladies exercising, so maybe that’s why she won first and I won second – everyone loves a dolphin. Old ladies sweating – not so much.

It was a long time ago anyway and I've forgiven her for snatching the prize money from my grasp, and I'm looking forward to our event, this time reading our poetry. Mari’s collection, Salacia, is available to buy here and she kindly took some time out from spending her prize money to write this piece about mental health and her poetry, especially for my blog.

Over and out.

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