Theresa May hails Northern Ireland mum with MS for selfless work helping others
A woman who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as she planned her wedding has been hailed by the Prime Minister for her work helping others.
Catherine Doran from Londonderry was just 26 and about to marry husband Joe when she was told the devastating news.
Ten years later Catherine, as well as being mum to Charlotte (8) and Lucy (5), is now the chairwoman of the Northern Ireland MS Council.
She has just returned from 10 Downing Street where she was in a delegation that met Theresa May to raise the importance of research into the crippling condition.
Also in attendance was Patricia Crossley (76) from Co Antrim, who has been volunteering for the MS Society for over 40 years, did a fundraising skydive aged 68, and abseiled down Belfast Castle last year.
More than 100,000 people in the UK live with MS, which is painful and exhausting, and can cause problems with how sufferers walk, move, see, think and feel. And Mrs May heard how the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which replaced Disability Living Allowance, was causing real hardship for people with MS.
Catherine said it was an honour to help raise the importance of continued research "but also to highlight the real difficulties PIP is causing people with MS".
"The Prime Minister in her speech highlighted the importance of the MS Society and how she understood MS because her mother had the condition," she added.
Recalling her diagnosis, she said: "I had been feeling unwell, but never guessed I would be told I had MS.
"When the diagnosis came, in a strange way it was a relief, because I knew then what it was that was making me feel the way I did, but it was still a shock.
"One of the first decisions we had to make was around having children or treatment, so we decided to have a family and had our daughter Charlotte fairly soon after we were married. I started treatment straight after that and came off it again to have our second daughter Lucy, and went back on it again right after she was born.
"Anyone who was diagnosed with MS even 10 years before I was would have been advised not to have children.
"But thanks to the research carried out during those 10 years we have our two daughters. This is why it is so important to fund research for MS, because who knows what the next 10 years will bring?"
The event celebrated the impact volunteers and many others have had on vital MS research and driving more, improved treatments for everyone. Mrs May personally thanked volunteers, including Ms Crossley, who has helped raise over £200,000 for the MS Society.
Mrs May said: "From sponsored skydives to abseiling down Belfast Castle, Pat's energy and enthusiasm throughout 40 years of volunteering with the MS Society is truly inspiring. It is an honour to celebrate the impact she and other volunteers have had in their local communities and beyond, and I send you my heartfelt thanks for the amazing work that you do."
Patricia, who is the MS Society's Ballymoney group secretary, said: "I was so thrilled and delighted to be invited to Downing Street. I didn't know anything about MS when I started volunteering, but the MS Society quickly became part of my life and in 40 years I haven't missed a group meeting."
Anyone who would like more information about the MS Society can call 028 9080 2802