WHEN she was diagnosed with MS aged just 33, Julie Bairstow feared she would have to forego the many things she loved.
But music inspired her not to give up on everything she held dear in life.
Now Dewsbury-born Julie’s many choir friends will be standing beside her when she stages a charity concert next month.
The 48-year-old hopes the event will raise awareness of the devastating illness and inspire other sufferers not to give up on their dreams.
She said: “I’ve lost so many things in my life because of my condition, but I’ve managed to hold on to music – it’s been inspirational and uplifting.
“It is so important to get on with your life, especially when you don’t know how your body is going to respond each morning.
“This illness is highly disabling to a lot of people, but I want to get the message across that your life doesn’t have to stop because of it.”
Julie’s life changed forever when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a disabling neurological condition – in 1994.
She had recently qualified as a mental health nurse, but was forced to retire two years after her diagnosis as her symptoms got progressively worse.
Julie said: “I was suffering extreme fatigue and I would suddenly find myself on the floor as my legs stopped moving. I lost strength in my hands so I couldn’t do things like administering injections.
“I needed to be in control of my body to work safely in that environment, so I made the decision to retire.”
Julie found this sudden loss of control of her life difficult and for a time felt isolated to her home as her worsening condition meant she had to give up on the things she loved, like swimming and photography.
She had been a member of her local ladies choir, the Rodillian Singers, since 1981 and was determined to keep that hobby in her life.
She said: “There are things I’ve had to change in my life because of my illness, but singing is the only part from my life before that I’ve been able to retain.
“My speech therapist worked with me on my breathing control and said singing was the best therapy I could do.
“I find singing really uplifting and when I’ve had an awful day it makes me feel so much better.
“The social aspect of it is also important as it’s made me feel part of the community – I’ve been able to join in with life again instead of just looking out of my window at it.”
Julie, who relies on her mobility scooter and assistance dog Henna to get around, has recently performed with the choir in venues including the Royal Albert Hall and York Minster alongside opera star Katherine Jenkins.
And her beloved three-year-old chocolate Labrador – who came from Wakefield Dogs for the Disabled – has even become an honorary member of the choir!
Julie said: “She’s a wonderful companion when my husband is at work and does things for me like picking up things I drop, taking the washing out of the machine and fetching my shoes.
“She comes with me to choir practice and if I drop my music she picks it up. Everyone adores her and she’s now an honorary member.”
Julie, of Wrenthorpe, Wakefield, is a member of the Huddersfield MS Society and has organised several fundraisers to raise cash to help the 100,000 people in the UK suffering from the illness.
The latest is a fundraising concert at Dewsbury Minister on May 15, which the choir will perform in.
The event is being organised as part of the charity’s aim to raise awareness of the condition and to inspire people to beat MS.
Julie said: “There are so many people that don’t see that we’re active, independent members of society. That even though parts of our life are finished there’s a lot of life left to live.”
For tickets to the Multiple Sclerosis Fundraising Concert call 01924 218565 or 01924 253261.