Powerhouse corporate women, Vanessa and Nicole battle it out with their businesses to take out the title of Highest Corporate Fundraiser at this year’s MS Brissie to the Bay. Staying positive after receiving a life-changing diagnosis, the two women share their journeys on living with MS and how the MS Brissie to the Bay bike ride brought them together.
38-year-old Nicole, a Dealers Assistant from Shaw and Partners, has been living with MS for 10 years. After experiencing symptoms for over a year, Nicole was diagnosed at 28 years old with relapsing-remitting MS in September of 2011.
“The first episode caused the entire right side of my body to go numb, and I was admitted into the Mater hospital for tests. My neurologists only arranged an MRI of my spine, and unfortunately not of my brain. The following year when the symptoms and numbness returned, the doctors ordered scans of my brain which confirmed the devastating news that I had MS.
Now 10 years on from her MS diagnosis, Nicole reflects on what it has been like living with the disease. “I believe MS has made me a stronger person, to fight for what I believe in and appreciate my family, friends, life and health much more than what I did prior. My family and friends have been such an amazing support system and I will be forever in their debt.”
Nicole’s boss, Peter, has been participating and fundraising in MS Brissie to the Bay for the past few years. When he learnt of Nicole’s MS diagnosis, he approached her to create a Shaw & Partners Corporate Team. Raising over $112,000 over the collective years – Nicole reflects on the importance and impacts this fundraising event has had on her and the team.
“It fills all of us in the Shaw & Partners team with immense pride to see our brand and advisers amongst the wonderful volunteers, supporters and participants in this great event. It is a phenomenal opportunity to raise awareness of MS, and to raise funds for support services and research, along with just being an overall fun day! We look forward to many more years being able to participate in the Brissie to the Bay ride,” she says.
35-year-old Vanessa works as a Private Client Adviser at Morgans and was diagnosed with MS in 2018 after experiencing a range of symptoms for two years. “Initially, I had electric shocks running down my spine and then both my legs proceeded to go numb. I was told in the years prior it was just a pinched nerve, so ignored it until I started to get pins and needles in my hands and arms and a range of other symptoms,” she says.
During the height of the pandemic, where many procedures and treatments were having to be delayed, Vanessa said her treatment was brought forward due to further disease activity. “I had two bad relapses when the COVID-19 pandemic started last year. It was really scary as I was essentially killing off my immune system in the middle of a pandemic, but my neurologist insisted it was important to finish the course of my treatment with the aim of halting or slowing any progression”.
However, Vanessa’s battle hasn’t been in vain as she claims her recent MRI’s are looking promising. “I had an MRI at the start of the year, and for the first time in probably 5 years, I have no new lesions on my brain or spine. My symptoms have remitted and I’m feeling really good, which all comes down to intensive treatment. I’m back mountain biking most weekends and keen to take part in the MS Brissie to the Bay and the 30-day virtual challenge again this year”, she says.
Boosting fundraising efforts in support of Vanessa, Morgans have donated over $40,000 via their foundation by offering a dollar matching giving initiative for staff and branches.
Due to the efforts of Shaw and Partners and Morgans, MS Queensland can continue to help people like Nicole and Vanessa, and many others living with MS. Togetherness is at the core of our fundraising events in ensuring that no one faces MS alone. Despite the challenge’s life has thrown at these two women, their determination and commitment are undeniably present. Coincidentally working in buildings next to each other, both women have found a special connection out of an extraordinary situation.
“We met through the event and MS Queensland and now we often meet up for coffee and discuss our treatments and journey. It’s great to have someone else to chat to who’s thriving in their finance role while living well with MS,” said Vanessa.