First, I have a confession to make, I don’t watch soap operas on television but the fact is they do attract huge and often passionate audiences.
They develop different story lines from time to time, and the newest such story in one leading TV soap in the UK is one of its main characters being diagnosed with relapsing MS.
In a recent episode of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks soap opera, set in a fictional suburb of the English city Chester, character Nancy Osborne met with her neurologist to hear the results of an MRI scan. In previous months, viewers had seen the character, played by actress Jessica Fox, experience a series of unexplained symptoms including weakness, tremor and spasms.
Nancy is a young mum in her late 20s who’s been involved in numerous main storylines since 2005. She’s married to Darren Osborne and is the deputy headteacher at Hollyoaks High.
Doubts have already been expressed about how well the television company will treat the story. Some comments on Facebook questioned if such a serious disease would be handled in the right way and if it would be true to life, but I am reassured that the programme makers are trying their very best.
The country’s leading multiple sclerosis charity, the MS Society, has confirmed that it has been consulted and has cooperated with the programme makers.
On its website, the charity says: “The scriptwriters got in touch with us to ask for advice about MS. We were happy to give them accurate information about MS and its symptoms, but we know it’s up to Hollyoaks to decide how they use our feedback.
“We also introduced the scriptwriters to people with MS who shared their own experiences of the condition. One of the people we asked was Kirsty, who’s a 32-year-old accountant and mum to four-year-old Lottie. She was joined by her close friends, sisters Kat Garner and Vicki Bithell, whose parents have MS.”
Kirsty told the MS Society: “This was the first time I opened up to such a large group of people about how I feel about my MS.
“At one point, I got quite choked up, but we really wanted to show what it’s like living with MS and how it feels to watch someone you love battle often debilitating symptoms every day.”
It will be interesting to see how the storyline progresses and how well Nancy can cope with living with MS.
50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.