Trishna Bharadia is an MS Advocate that appeared on the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing, known in the US as Dancing with the Stars. The experience was tremendous for her and she brought much visibility to multiple sclerosis. I am beyond honored I had the opportunity to interview this inspiring woman from across the world and share her with you.
How many years have you lived with MS?
“I’ve probably had MS for around 10-11 years but I’ve been diagnosed for nearly seven. I was diagnosed at the age of 28 back in May 2008, after I experienced a loss of feeling down my left side, pins and needles down my right side and L’Hermittes. However, around four years prior to that I’d lost the strength in both my hands. At the time it was put down to repetitive strain injury but actually it was probably my first relapse.”
How are you feeling today?
“I’ve always tried to stay very positive and whilst everyone does have their bad days, I try not to dwell on them too much now. For me every day is about adjustment. It’s about recognising what you can do, accepting your limits and adjusting to new norms. I also live with chronic urticaria/angiodema, which may have been triggered by one of the disease modifying therapies I was on. Therefore, I have to manage and adapt for that as well.”
What medications or natural treatments do you use?
“Currently I’m not on any DMTs, as I failed two first-line drugs. I took Rebif for three years but developed neutralising antibodies (NABs) and then took Copaxone for 18 months but developed chronic urticaria/angiodema. My MS had been relatively stable for a number years, with no major relapses, so I agreed with my neurologist that for the time being I’d remain off DMTs. It was a hard decision to make but I had to weigh up the risks and side effects of the second line drugs, compared with my current quality of life. I am a fully informed patient so it’s a decision that I made with my eyes open.”
“In terms of natural treatments, I’m a great believer that the complementary/natural route can work alongside the conventional medicinal route, when it comes to long-term management of MS and generally staying healthy. I take Vitamin D supplements and try to get as much sunshine as possible, I have acupuncture regularly and have also had a course of massage, consulted a dietician (not to go on a specific “MS diet” but to make sure I’m getting all the “good” things you need for a healthy body), and I try to get as much exercise as possible. I’ve also had physio sessions to try to build core strength. Plus, I think it’s important to stay hydrated so I always drink plenty of water!”
How did you decide to be a part of Strictly Come Dancing?
“I was nominated to appear on the first ever “The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief” by my sister. None of us contestants had any idea that we’d been nominated! It was all kept completely under wraps until we were each given our “big surprise.” My sister nominated me for the huge amount of charity work I do, raising awareness about MS and helping others with the condition. My work has spanned several MS charities, including the MS Society, the MS Trust, Asian MS, MS-UK and ShiftMS. The show aimed to say “thank you” to “everyday heroes” who are fans of Strictly Come Dancing (the UK version of Dancing with the Stars). I’ve always loved the show and have often said that I wished that I was a celebrity just so that I could take part. When I found out I was going to be on it I was speechless. It was literally one of the best days of my life! It was a four-part series that would also raise money for Comic Relief, a UK charity that wants to see a just world that is free from poverty.”
How did your MS affect you while you were on the show?
“Aljaz (my dance partner) and I were dancing the jive, which is one of the highest energy dance styles on the show. It meant that we had to pace our training to make sure I wasn’t getting too tired. We also had to make sure the dance studio was kept cool to prevent early muscle fatigue and flare-ups of my urticaria. The production team also had to learn when I was at my most productive. It wasn’t necessarily a good idea to do a long interview with me after a 15 hour day, for instance! They made sure that I had somewhere to rest during filming days and were always mindful about me being the “last one in” and the “first one out.” I continued to do my full-time job, as a translator for a business information services company, while I was on the show so it was a huge juggling act.”
What did you learn while being on the show?
“Wow, where do I begin? I learned so much from the other contestants on the show, who are all such wonderful people. They really became like a second family and we’re all still in touch. It was humbling to be able to share such an experience with five individuals for whom I grew to have so much respect and admiration.”
“I learnt so much about myself too. If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be dancing in front of millions of people I’d have never have believed them! Aljaz was brilliant with me and he really made me believe in myself and my abilities. Even though I’m very active, I’d have never have thought I would be able to manage the sheer number of hours of dance training I did. We were training five days a week and even though it was hard at the beginning, my body did adapt.”
“The show also enabled me to experience a whole different world. I learned that I could be put into completely new situations that were out of my comfort zone and not only survive them but enjoy them at the same time!”
“The best thing about the show has been just how many people have been touched by it though. I’ve had people contacting me saying that they’ve been inspired by seeing what I’ve been through and my journey on the show. One lady with MS told me that she’d always been a swing dancer but when she was diagnosed she gave up because she assumed she just wouldn’t be able to do it any longer. After seeing me on the show, it inspired her to take it up again and she’s already been for her first lesson and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s stories like that which make me so happy!”
What do you think the future of MS is?
“I think it’s a very exciting time for MS. There’s so many promising new drugs coming on to the market for RRMS, ones that are easier to take (orals rather than injectables) and ones that are showing a high efficacy rate for reducing relapses. There’s also much more focus now on progressive disease, which is a brilliant development because I know that many people have felt that progressive MS has been “forgotten about “ in the past. I think there is real hope in the area of repurposing drugs, as it is a quick and much cheaper route to getting potential MS treatments to market.”
“I also think we are moving in the right direction in terms of care. It’s becoming much more of a “consumer” market and neurologists and healthcare teams will have to realise (if they haven’t already) that people are willing to ask around and find a healthcare team who is on the same page as they are, rather than just going to whoever is local because it’s convenient. I think this is good because it keeps healthcare teams on their toes and gives you confidence that you’re in the best possible hands. I’d like to think that within a couple of generations people with multiples sclerosis will have treatments that will not only stop the disease in its tracks but will also repair any damage that has already been done. I really do think we’re going the right way!”
Thank you Trishna. I love to speak with people with MS that are not stuck home in bed, but out living a happy life.
You can watch the People’s Strictly (Trishna is in Episodes 2, 3 & 4) here.
You might also enjoy reading these other Real MS Stories.