50shadesofsun.com is back


This is just a brief note to say that 50shadesofsun.com is up and running again.

I know there has been a lack of posts for a few months, but the site is back in business.

Regular readers will know that I live with multiple sclerosis, an unpleasant, unwanted, degenerative disease. It is oppressive and daunting but I am still the same person, positive and mainly cheerful athough there are times of frustration. But everyone gets frustrated sometimes, right?

The good news is that MS had nothing to do with this site’s short break, read more here.

The site has a new look, is easier to read, and has changed its host to WordPress, so costs have been reduced – which is essential. After all, 50shadesofsun.com is not designed to be a money-earner.

It is an independent site which is totally free of any commercial influences. And it will continue to be just that. I promise.

Freedom of the press, of which digital media is a part, is very dear to me. As such, I will continue to voice my opinions, whether to praise or criticise, to encourage or warn, Whatever they are, my opinions will be honestly held and be fair comment.

Watch this space!

Disability is not the end, just a different way to spend time in your new life


People who don’t work have to find different ways to fill their time. But those who are unable to work because they have disabilities, like me, need to find things within their capabilities. Not so easy.

For many, previously enjoyed pastimes are out. Of course, I cannot speak for everyone but some of the ways I used to spend my ‘spare’ time are no longer feasible.

Before this disease developed, my activities included:

    Adult leader of a scout troop

   Leader of mountain walking groups

   Rock climber and abseiler

   Advanced first aider, with St John Ambulance

Since multiple sclerosis took its toll, such active roles no longer feature in my life. These days, excursions into the outdoor world are either in our car, fortunately I can still drive, or my electric-powered wheelchair.

But what to do with those long hours at home? Well, the first thing to say here is that I am determined to carry on as best I can. There is very little “woe is me” about my life. MS and the physical disabilities that accompany it are just irritants, no more than obstacles to overcome.

As I have said before (see CAN do attitude to life), the activities I listed above are firmly in the past, now no more than fond memories. But, I’m so glad I did them when I could.

Filling that new life

So, what do I get up to these days?

Regular readers will know that, nearly 2½ years ago, Lisa and I set up home in southern Spain. We left behind rainy north Wales, in the UK, to embrace the sunny climes of Andalucía. Writing this, in mid-April, the sun is shining, our back door is open, and I am wearing a sleeveless top and shorts.

Writing has been my life (see In the written wor(l)d) and continues to play a big part. Now that I have retired from full-time journalism, this blog provides a place to publish my writings for the world to see. What’s more, I enjoy researching and putting together the articles that I write from my living room armchair or out on the terrace which is enclosed by insect screens.

Something else I enjoy is playing games on my computer. Here I am not talking about solitaire or sudoku, though I like those too. Here, I am referring to my favourite massively multiplayer online role-playing game (known as a MMORPG) called Anarchy Online. This is very involving and makes short work of any surfeit of time that may be on your hands.

Oh, and in case the idea of computers puts you off. I can only use one hand as MS has robbed me of use of my left.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

What having multiple sclerosis means


Taking it easy the other evening while the television droned n the background, after all, how many times can you watch reruns of even the best programmes, got me thinking about what having MS means to me.

It’s strange what the mind turns to when in a semi-comatose state!

It is now 14½ years since what had been a series of mysterious symptoms was finally diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. Symptoms that were investigated some 15 years earlier, including a lumbar puncture, but revealed nothing.

But in 2002, thanks to rapid action by my GP and some speedy responses at my then local hospital in the UK, the neurologist gave me his diagnosis in April. From referral from my GP to positive diagnosis, including all tests, took just three months.

The initial feeling was relief that the symptoms belong to a disease which has a name; my wife at the time was just pleased that it was not a brain tumour. I don’t remember the exact date. It was in April 2002, that’s as close as it’s possible to recall.

At the time, I knew nothing about the disease except it had a strange name and I needed to learn to spell it. Then I needed to learn more about it and for supplying a great deal of information, a tribute must be paid to the MS Society in the UK, where I then lived.

MS means early retirement

With mobility affected, going out to work proved possible for the next five years but then it just became too much and early retirement beckoned.

In the next few years, life was turned upside down but not because of MS. Events led to divorce and remarriage just eight weeks later.


In my wheelchair on a better day.

Last year, by then using a wheelchair for all but the shortest of distances, I decided to start this blog and, after a slow start, it really took off.

At the same time, Lisa and I were planning our move to Spain, to enjoy sunny weather so unlike the grey cloudy skies so usual in the UK.

Now in Spain, my mobility is no better but recently it seems no worse either.  Grip through my left hand is still poor but fractionally better than it was.

This blog led to an unexpected development in May this year when I was contact by MS News Today and asked to write for that website. Now, less than six months later I am busy developing and managing a team of patient specialists across some 50 disease/disorder sites.

And the great thing is that I can do everything from the comfort of my own armchair. What’s more, everything I do for this blog or MS News Today is great therapy

People talk about MS being one of the invisible illnesses, the sort that means people can have without others seeing it. In my case, I’m well beyond that stage if trying to walk, but sitting down, you’d be hard-pressed to tell.

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ian profile

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-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.

One year on: MS, health and disability website is thriving

health & disabilityWhat has become a very popular and well respected health and disability website, with multiple sclerosis as a specialty, 50shadesofsun.com is one-year-old today – and what a year it has been.

Obviously, year one has always got to be quite difficult, especially during the first few months, as there is a fairly steep learning curve to be climbed. And that has certainly turned out to be true.

Looking back, the year can be divided into two parts: the five months of 2015 and the seven months of 2016. The first five months, from August 1 to December 31, 50shades attracted a modest but encouraging 3,227 views, so generating a monthly average of just more than 625. But with the New Year came a sudden upturn in those key figures.

January 2016 attracted 3,183 views – unbelievable almost as many as the previous five months combined. This was a significant reaction to a marketing strategy I had begun to work on, involving social media. It was, I decided, to put this into a higher gear and this led to that January figure turning into a staggering 11,595 views in February.

50shadesofsun had exceeded the ‘holy grail’ dream of 10,000 a month in just its seventh month.

By analyzing what type of posts gained the most views, it was easy to see that the most popular were ones related to disability in general, including mobility aids and government benefits, and multiple sclerosis in particular.

I decided to concentrate on these areas and finally converted 50shadesofsun into a Health & Disability niche website.

In the five months since then, it has received 102,047 views, averaging over 20,000 a month.

Most views in one day was a magnificent 6,384 on April 7; while the most read post, which was posted that day, achieved a total of 9,749 views over a number of days.

Now, today starts year two and I look forward to seeing where that takes us.



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