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Staying Positive to Enjoy the 'Small Beauties of Life'


Hannah Rush

Digital Personal Banker

ANZ New Zealand 

The week before Christmas I noticed I was feeling tired. Not just tired - exhausted. I was a healthy and normal 24-year-old, working as a Personal Banker at the ANZ Birkenhead Branch – a busy role, but one I enjoyed.


Then I noticed my eyes were behaving strangely. They seemed to be blinking at different speeds. It was strange, but then suddenly things got stranger. I lost the ability to move half my face. It was paralyzed.


Then over the next 24 hours I lost all ability to walk. I was terrified and started to question if my life would ever go back to normal. I remember feeling overwhelmed.


I was admitted to North Shore hospital and for a week the doctors ran tests. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, when my family usually get together in the Waikato. Facing Christmas in hospital I was distraught.


Then on Christmas Eve I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.


Affecting about 1 in every 1200 New Zealanders, multiple sclerosis, or MS is a lifelong illness which sees the immune system attack its own tissue, damaging nerves and disrupting communication between brain and body.


There’s no cure and because it makes you more vulnerable to other diseases, those living with MS need to do everything they can to stay healthy.


Before my diagnosis, I’d only ever known one person living with multiple sclerosis. She was a friend’s mother and had been in a wheelchair since she was diagnosed.


My first thought when I was diagnosed was that I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Then I remember telling myself that while I didn’t choose to have the illness or do anything to cause it, it was my choice now that would determine how it would affect my life.


I decided that I would not let the disease run my life and that I was going to do whatever I could not to be wheelchair-bound. This meant making a lifelong commitment to my health.


Eight months on, after following a special diet, I’ve lost 35kg . I can walk unassisted for 500 meters and, even though MS will be with me for the rest of my days, my life feels like it has returned to normal. My partner has been amazing. My full-time carer at times, he’s also helped me with my diet and kept me motivated.


At work, the support of my managers has meant I’ve been able to adapt my role and my hours. I’ve been able to focus on my health – on exercise, diet and physio and hospital appointments. ANZ’s subsidised health insurance has also been an amazing help.


The flexibility offered by ANZ has also made it possible for me to continue to work for the bank, now remotely as a customer consultant. It’s a role that’s well suited to me now with a weakened immune system, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.


I now know that staying positive is the key to staying well. I’ve accepted my symptoms are here to stay and that if it’s hot I get tired, and if it’s cold I get numb. I have constant pins and needles in my hands and feet, but this only makes me more grateful for what I have in my life.


I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff and I’m not hard on myself for not being able to do all the things I used to do. I’ve don’t worry about what others think and I have learned to enjoy the small beauties of life, while not taking anything for granted.


Thank you to my partner, friends, family and ANZ for all the love and support you shared with me along the way!


September 14th-20th 2020 is marked by Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.


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