Be positive about living life your way


If you are living with a disability, or a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis, how do you choose to approach life?

Some people will say “You must” or “You must not” do this, that, or the other. But, in my opinion, they are wrong. I will only urge you to do certain things, no more. No, ‘you must’ or ‘you should’. Not from me.

We are all individuals and need to form our own opinions and make our own decisions. The human race is not an actual race, not a contest. We are each unique and do not benefit from comparison to other people.

Therefore, what follows is not a list of rules to follow. They are just things that I do, that I would urge you to consider. 

Focus on what you can do – and do it. I put what I can no longer do where it belongs. By that, I mean as a happy memory from my past.

Keep calm. By that I mean, when faced with a problem or difficulty, I think about how to overcome it. It’s important not to panic, I take my time and think my way through it.

Don’t worry too much about the future. Sure, if there is anything that can be done to make life better, then by all means I’ll do it. However, in the words of an old song, “Whatever will be, will be, The future’s not ours to see”, so there is little point worrying about it. Perhaps it would be better to consider what we do with our lives now, rather than what might, or might not, happen in years to come.

Grasp opportunities in life

Live life to the full. I grasp every opportunity that presents itself. In the past six years, I have divorced and remarried; gone to the most northern point of mainland Europe; visited Hawaii, New York, and Moscow; crossed the Atlantic by cruise ship; and moved to live in Spain. There’s an adage in the business world that is perfect for us. And that is not to see problems as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities to be taken. In other words, turn a negative into a positive.

Live your life as you want to live. While I urge you to live positively, ultimately how you live your life is your own decision.

Accept the love of those nearest and dearest to you, and make sure you show your love for them in return. Think about it for a moment, where would we be without their support?

No man is an island, so the saying goes, and that is true. Whether or not you have a disability, isolation is not an easy choice. While I prize my independence, as I am sure you do, sometimes I do need help. You will too. At such times, we don’t need to be too independent or proud to accept assistance – or even ask for it.

Value yourself. Please don’t fall into the trap of believing that your disability makes you worthless. You do have value as an individual with your own opinions, as a member of your community

Live your life, speak your truth. While speaking out will come easer to some than others, it is important that we speak for ourselves. We need to be our own advocates; no one else can do it as well as ourselves.

Happy New Year.

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

* * * * * 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 intended for your general knowledge only and 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 and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

One year on: Living with MS in sunny Spain


It was this Sunday a year ago that Lisa and I arrived in Spain to start our new life in the sunshine, just 15 minutes from the Mediterranean.

Yes, although even the two of us find it hard to believe, we have lived here in Spain for 12 months. And we love it.

Two of the main reasons that we decided to relocate to the south of Spain were for better weather and for a hoped-for improvement in my health, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 2002.

So, let’s have a look at what is going on in Spain:

  • My health: Well, of course, I still have MS but from an MRI scan last month I know that the lesions on my spine and brain are inactive. Now, I am not going to attempt to explain the technical details but will just say that my symptoms seem to have stabilized. I am now beginning to be able to move a few steps without holding on to furniture and walls, which is a good sign. It seems that I have got no worse since our move; whether that is linked to the sunny weather, I don’t know.
  • Weather: Sunny and warm most of the year. The area is renowned for having upwards of 320 days of sun per year. Such a change from the UK climate. Before we moved, it was not unusual to have to wear winter jackets in July; but here, in January his year, we were dressed in summer clothes sitting out in the sunshine. Luckily, my version of MS-related heat sensitivity is not affected by warm weather but by sudden fluctuations; this makes Spain an ideal place to live.
  • Healthcare: Like the UK’s NHS, the Sistema Nacional de Salud de España (Spain’s National Health Service) provides socialised healthcare for all residents. Our experience of this has included fast and efficient hospital service, both as in-patient and out-patient, efficient local health centre where our GP is based – including the ability to make appointments online. Prescriptions charges are so low as to be negligible and pharmacists here can provide certain products that require a doctor’s prescription in the UK.
  • Dentists and Opticians: While these are not covered by the health service, and so we have to pay, the costs are not excessive and even the sight test is free if you buy spectacles from the same place.
  • Roads and driving: Spain has the most amazing network of roads that are mostly wide, open and free. Some of the newest motorways, known as autovias, are toll roads. They have different designations. Near us, we have the A7 (free autovia) and the AP7 (toll autovia). Of course, like all mainland European countries, the USA and many more, the Spanish drive on the right-hand side of the road, unlike the UK. But, despite having driven on the left for more than 40 years, driving a left-hand drive car on the right side of the road has come naturally to me.
  • Restaurants, Bars and Cafés: There are so many from which to choose, featuring a wide variety of cuisines. Many also offer a Menú del Día option which is a reasonably priced Menu of the Day including a drink.
  • Shopping: We are well serviced by supermarkets, specialist shops, economy stores and the usual wide range of high street shops. No-one does home deliveries or click-and-collect however. Those advances haven’t reached Spain yet, at least not the rural part.
  • Motor fuel: Whether you want diesel or gasolina (petrol), they are both reasonably priced and cheaper than in the UK.
  • Electricity: The costs are higher in Spain but not so high as to detract from living here.
  • People: We have found everybody so pleasant and helpful; something quite unlike anything we’d previously experienced. Only two days ago, as Lisa was packing our shopping into bags at the supermarket checkout, a young man appeared and helped her, and then loaded them back into the cart. We thanked him but he insisted on escorting us back to our car where he folded and loaded my electric wheelchair plus all the shopping into the vehicle and even took the cart back and reclaimed the one Euro coin and returned it to Lisa. I was surprised to receive similar treatment in the USA but Lisa explained that the guy was paid to do it; it was his job. The man in Spain was not wearing the supermarket uniform, in fact it does not employ packers. He was just a member of the public who wanted to help!
  • Language: Our linguistic skills are improving and I find myself understanding the gist of what someone is Spainsaying in Spanish and being able to make myself understood.

To sum it all up, one year on from our big move, we both absolutely love it. We are healthier (in my case, with MS, I equate ‘no worse’ to being healthier), happier and financially better-off.

Now, where’s my Sangria?

new strap

ian 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.

Life through time

OK, this might seem a bit self-centred but this blog includes so much about Lisa and I today, a little looking back may not be a bad thing. So let’s begin by delving back 63 years, yes there I am, about 4 – 6 weeks old with my brother Graham, aged 11, and sister Averil, 7.  Today, I am 63, Averil is 70 while, sadly, Graham died aged 48. He would be 74 now.


baby_edited alone





Me a few months old, not sure of the exact number. Note the blond curly hair.




















Our family in, I think, 1959: Back: Averil, 13, Graham, 17, and Dad. Front: Me, 6, and Mum.

young referee
















1970: I qualified as a football (soccer) referee and started refereeing adult matches in the 1969/70 season while I was still at school – good job that the players didn’t know that their referee was still in high school. This picture was taken when I was 18.


ian circa 1976_edited











At work, about 1976, so 23 going on 24. The fashion was for longish hair covering your ears – not easy to accomplish when you have natural curly hair.


ian circa 1980_edited ian 1982

Solemn and smiling, which do you prefer of these two photographs? I know that these were taken in early 1982; I was aged 29.

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In 1983 I was Senior Warden of the Masonic lodge of which I had joined in 1979. I would become Master in January 1984.

wedding day 2011






31st October 2011, sunset on Samhain/Halloween: Lisa and I, just married on Fort Myers Beach in a pagan handfasting ceremony by a Notary Public, licensed by Florida to conduct weddings. Our wedding was eight days before I turned 59.

murder mystery

Lisa and I with the remainder of the cast of Murder at the Theatre, performed at Theatr1 Colwyn, North Wales, UK, in August 2014. Lisa wrote the murder mystery, directed it and ended up acting in it (all for the very first time) when one of the cast pulled out – and that is why she was presented with her very well-deserved ‘Star of Fame’ award. 1Welsh spelling.


Joanne and us_edited_edited14th November 2015, our last night in the UK before moving to Spain. Joanne Jones joined us for our farewell meal in the Paanshee Bengali Restaurant in Prestatyn. Note my new hairstyle, curls and waves are all gone – now its ‘number two all over’.



15th November 2015: Lisa and I arrived in Spain to start our new life together.

We met in Second Life, an online virtual world; we took our relationship into real life; now we are living happily in our new life in the sun.

We were told by some that we would not make a go of it; others wished us every happiness.

Lisa and I are really happy and plan to be so for a very, very long time.