‘I can lead a good life’ - Trowse teenager vows not to let life-limiting condition ruin her future

Julia Schoppe, 17, of Trowse, who has been diagnosed with MS, but is determined to enjoy life. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Julia Schoppe, 17, of Trowse, who has been diagnosed with MS, but is determined to enjoy life. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

A brave teenager has vowed to fulfil her dreams and ambitions despite being diagnosed with a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.

MS Centre important to users

On a weekly basis the MS Therapy Centre in Norwich provides information and support services for about 200 people with MS across Norfolk.

The centre, which is a charity, opened in 2013 and offers sessions, activities, and other services for 450-strong membership.

This includes therapies such as yoga, pilates, and other alternative methods of treatment. The general public can also take part.

Also based at the premises is the Norwich branch of the MS Society, which gives information and advice to MS patients and their families. Nick Jarvis, chairman of the branch, said the MS centre was the only one of its kind in the region. But the charities have struggled with the tough economic climate to attract grants from national funding bodies, and now face the prospect of having to move to separate and smaller locations to survive financially.

Julia who uses the centre once a month, said she would be “really gutted” if the centre had to close.

“It’s a family atmosphere there and it helps get people with MS out of the house,” she said.

The charity has launched several fundraising schemes and is appealing for people and businesses to help.

For more information on the centre and to donate money visit

This summer Julia Schoppe, 17, of Trowse, was given the devastating news that she had multiple sclerosis (MS), an illness for which there is no cure.

It left her shocked and depressed - but one month on the teenager has decided she will not let the condition ruin her aspiration to become a nurse and start a family.

“I have got this condition but I am dealing with it and I can lead a good life,” Julia said.

And as well as battling her own condition, Julia has joined the fight to save a centre which helps people with MS from closing.

The Norwich MS Therapy Centre, which also houses the MS Society’s Norwich branch, is faced with the prospect of moving out of its Hellesdon premises unless £250,000 can be raised in the next six months.

The teenager is organising a charity event in Trowse on September 20 to raise funds for the centre.

MS occurs when the body’s immune system starts to attack myelin (a layer which protects the nerve system) because it mistakes it for a harmful substance. This causes damage to the nerve system and can, in the worst case, limit a person’s mobility and movement.

In May Julia began feeling numb in her left fingers and the left side of her face.

When the numbing sensation failed to go away she went to a GP in Lakenham, who immediately referred her to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Tests confirmed Julia had relapsing remitting MS, the most common form of the condition.

“It’s not quite sunk in yet,” Julia said. “I still think I’m living in a bit of a dream. But there are worse things that could happen. Some young people get cancer.”

A common symptom of MS is depression, an illness Julia has had since she was a young teenager.

But she was so inspired by the treatment staff at the N&N gave her that she has set herself the target of becoming a nurse, which helps her focus and deal with the difficult times. “The way they cared for me was so lovely. They made me want to put a nursing outfit on and start looking after other patients.”

Her boyfriend Mathew Hatch, 20, of Wymondham, has also been a source of support, along with the rest of her family.

Julia’s medication has helped stave off any instant effects of MS and she is able to use her limbs and walk, although the latter sometimes makes her feel a bit shaky.

However every MS case is different, meaning Julia does not know when the condition will start to reduce her abilities.

“If it hits me when I’m 70 then I can deal with that, I’m not bothered about dying 10 or 15 years earlier as long as I can get to the grandparent stage,” she said.

“But I’m scared it will hit me in my 40s and that it will interrupt my career.”

Julia’s fundraising event, on the village green in Trowse, will feature a cake sale, massage therapy, a raffle, an auction, photo-shoot, musical entertainment, and more. The event starts at 2pm.

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