With a multiple sclerosis diagnosis 28 years ago, Pam Barclay will soon challenge herself to an abseil off the 131ft high Northern Lights Tower at the King’s Church in Aberdeen.

Through a partnership with MS Society Aberdeen and NHS Grampian, Pam attends Sport Aberdeen’s Technogym classes on a weekly basis at Horizon’s Rehabilitation Centre and was instrumental in assisting in getting these classes back up and running post-Covid-19.

Commenting on the abseil challenge, she said: “I did an abseil when I was in my 20s and before my MS impacted me, I don’t think I had been diagnosed at the time.

“It’s definitely a challenge now to do it at this stage but I saw it and thought, you know what – I’m going to get involved and see if I can do this!

“I’m actually registered twice – I have MS Society and Grampian MS Therapy Centre Just Giving pages and two T-shirts to wear coming down. I guess if I get down safely first time, I’ll just go back up and do it again with my other charity T-shirt on.

“It’s going to a bit daunting stepping backwards off the tower, it’s not natural and is going to be a strange feeling. I was thinking if I managed to get down once I’d be happy, never mind twice.”

“I do have a lot going on just now so I’m not thinking too much about it, before I know it the day will be here and I’ll just need to get on with it and go.

Pam laughs as she remarks: “I’ve said to quite a few people that have sponsored me that I’ll be fine once I get going but I might need a wee shove off the top – a few people have kindly volunteered to do that!

“I think I’ve always been quite positive; I’ve always been quite upbeat and I thought I wanted to do the abseil and get involved, I thought let’s go for it!”

Pam was one of the early people in Scotland to travel to Russia in 2017 for a month for a bone marrow stem cell transplant. After this treatment, she felt she wanted to come back and share her story as it was difficult to get information about the different treatment options available at that time.

Pam has been a volunteer for the MS Society and the Grampian MS Therapy Centre for several years. She frequently gets involved in fundraising events and has regularly given presentations to organisations to explain what the centre does and the reality of what it is like living with MS.

Pam Barclay

Pam Barclay

Pam’s working life

Having spent most of her career working in senior positions in the oil and gas industry, Pam told us she didn’t share her story with people and kept it to herself for the first 19 years.

She commented: “I didn’t want to disclose it back then. Nowadays it’s a bit different, you know, it’s much more open and people are encouraged to speak about disabilities and neurodiversity in the workplace but back then, it was different.

“I always felt a bit uncomfortable about disclosing my MS in case someone thought I wasn’t capable of doing the job I was in.

“It can be tough getting up in the morning because your body has been resting and you get what they call spasticity; the muscles go into spasms, basically what happens with MS is the immune system attacks the centre nervous system, causing myelin damage. It’s not the muscle that is the problem, it’s the signal from the brain that can’t get down the damaged nerve path.

“In the morning when I get up, I have to do my stretch exercises and both my neuro-Pilates and Sport Aberdeen’s Technogym classes are great ways of helping me keep myself as mobile as possible.”

Pam’s positive attitude

With a positive attitude towards life in general and an uplifting personality, Pam likes to get creative when it comes to fundraising.

She said: “During lockdown, I got an e-bike and completed a John O’Groats to Lands’ End equivalent cycle, accumulating the miles in my local area, it was about 872 miles over the months of July and August.

“I raised about £5,000 for the Grampian MS Therapy Centre which was really good and a real focus for me during lockdown. Some people found lockdown difficult but I didn’t, I focused on other things and got involved in running weekly Zoom sessions for the MS community.

“A lot of people say my god you never rest you’re always doing something, but I think it’s better for me to stay positive and upbeat. There are days where I can’t move well and some days are worse than others, but you learn to cope.

“I am passionate about giving back and helping others, I know what it’s like to live with this condition, I’ve had it a lot of years and it is a challenge. I know sometimes I make it look easy and people look at me and say you look fine, but when you see me moving, I don’t move fine.

“I try to do exercises in the house and I’ll have regular falls, that’s quite normal for me and it’s just getting myself up, dusting myself down and getting back on with it.

“I trip a lot, I stumble a lot, it’s the nature of the condition I have – there’s no point sitting in the corner and moping around, there’s a lot of people out there that are a lot worse off than me. You have to get on with it and focus on what you can do and not what you can’t.

“Try your best and where you can, support others and give something back, it’s good for the soul.

“If I can offer something that is going to help then why wouldn’t I, it’s about giving something back and keeping yourself motivated and not focusing on the downsides.”

Pam will take on the charity abseil on Saturday 25 May. The link to donate to her JustGiving page can be found here.

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