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This is caring: Christine

We spoke to Christine from Lancashire to find out about how husband Brian's multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis at the age of 26 years old has shaped their life together.

Christine and Brian Howarth cafe for web


Brian was diagnosed with MS when he was 26 years old. We’d been married for three years, and at that stage knew nothing about what the condition would mean for our lives. We thought ‘If this is it, we can cope’.

The condition developed fairly quickly, with each relapse leaving Brian a bit worse off than the last one. Within eight years he was using a wheelchair permanently and in 1988 he couldn’t manage at work anymore and was medically retired.

"My attitude has always been 'let's see what happens'."

We had our son 10 years into our marriage. It was a big step, but my attitude has always been ‘let’s see what happens’. I’m not a worrier – I try to get on with life and live each day at a time.

One of the biggest decisions for Brian was choosing to use a wheelchair full-time. It got to the point where he could either sit in the car while our son and I went out do things, or he could join us in his wheelchair and have our son on his lap. We’ve had some great holidays as a family – particularly in America where the facilities for disabled people were always so much better.

"I feel very lucky to have stayed in work until I retired"

With my mum looking after our son and helping out at home, I was able to continue working as a teacher – something that was incredibly important to me. I feel very lucky to have stayed in work until I retired aged 60 a few years ago.

Now I’m at home a lot I make sure I keep busy. I often go to an exercise class in the morning, and volunteer at the school I used to work for and as an Insight Volunteer for Carers UK. I need my own space – and so does Brian. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for carers who aren’t able to get that regular time away from caring.

We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way – particularly in buying equipment, like the jazzy electronic wheelchair that just wasn’t right for Brian. With the help of a brilliant occupational therapist we now have a better understanding of what equipment is going to suit Brian best.

"I don't think anyone fully understands what our life is like"

I don’t think anyone fully understands what our life is like – even people we’re close to. You don’t until you’ve been through it. I’m honestly not sure if people notice me cutting up Brian’s food and helping him eat when we go out. We try to be discreet!

Sometimes I do wonder how we coped. But you do just adapt – and get on with life in your own way.

Christine and Brian Howarth wedding guests for web

Brian and Christine at their son's wedding last September.


  • Are you looking after a family member or friend who is older, ill or disabled? Join Carers UK and be part of our supportive community and movement for change.
  • MS Awareness Week is taking place from Monday 25 April until 1 May 2016. To get information, support and advice about MS visit the MS Society and the MS Trust.
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