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Canterbury mother Jo Dunk refused to let multiple sclerosis diagnosis stand in the way of having another baby

By Gerry Warren

Baby Gracie-Mae snuggles into the chest of her smiling mum just minutes after taking her first breath.

But behind the picture lies the story of a struggle between a woman's diagnosis with a life-changing condition and her dream of having another child.

For when Jo Dunk was told she had multiple sclerosis at the age of just 34, she and her husband Ian were left facing the biggest decision of their lives.

Jo Dunk with new born Gracie-Mae
Jo Dunk with new born Gracie-Mae

They had to consider the impact of Jo’s debilitating condition, knowing the physical limitations it could have on her in the future.

But the couple desperately wanted a sibling for their little boy Ollie so took the decision to try for another baby – whatever the future held.

Now with a complete family, 40-year-old Jo says she has no regrets and even offers advice to others in the same situation considering motherhood.

“I didn’t want MS to stand in the way of having another baby,” she says.

Jo Dunk with her children Ollie (left) and Gracie-Mae (right)
Jo Dunk with her children Ollie (left) and Gracie-Mae (right)

“Obviously I was worried how we would cope and that I would have a serious relapse after the birth.

“But one of the clinchers for me was meeting someone whose sister had MS and had five kids, so we decided we could manage and just went for it.”

Ian, 41, who works for a sports supplements firm, said: “We don’t think it was a selfish thing to do because we don’t know how Jo will be in 10 years’ time and didn’t want to find ourselves regretting not going for it.

"Ian and I are delighted we have the family we longed for and we will all fight it together..." - Jo Dunk

“Jo is a feisty character and I knew she would tackle the challenge head-on, much like she has dealt with having MS.”

Jo, who works in accounts, has the most common form of the disease, relapsing remitting MS, which leaves her weak, numb and exhausted.

She was diagnosed in 2009 but is sure MS was affecting her many years before.

“I was always quite sporty but was increasingly becoming very tired with numb legs, which I couldn’t understand,” she says.

“The first doctor I saw was quite dismissive, even though I had suffered from a real indicator of the disease.

“After I had Ollie in 2008 I just put it down to the tiredness of being a new mum, but I remember lying in bed sobbing uncontrollably with tiredness when Ian went back to work.”

Jo was eventually diagnosed the following year.

She said: “In a way it was a relief because I knew something was wrong, but it was also very scary and felt like a bit of a death sentence because I had always been a very active person.

Opening of MS Therapy Centre, Canterbury
Opening of MS Therapy Centre, Canterbury

“I was a lot more tired after Gracie-Mae’s birth in 2010 but have a very supportive family around me and the MS Therapy Centre in Canterbury is also a tremendous help.

“They have even asked me to speak to other women with MS considering having children.

“Planning anything like family holidays can be difficult because I just don’t know how I will feel and sometimes I just have to collapse and rest.

“But Ian and I are delighted we have the family we longed for and we will all fight it together.”

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