Amy’s mum Janis Winehouse has MS. MS or Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
In MS, the immune system, which usually works to protect the body, mistakenly starts to attack the body’s own tissue.
The symptoms of MS or Multiple Sclerosis include: fatigue, changes in vision, stiffness, weakness, imbalance, sensory problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain, changes in bladder and/or bowel function, sexual changes, emotional changes, speech difficulties, and problems with thinking and memory.
Fortunately, most people develop only a few of these symptoms over the course of their MS, and most are able to manage their symptoms with assistance and support.
Sadly, Amy’s mum Janis Winehouse has MS and in this Sun report Janis Winehouse says: “How can I sit around wasting my life when Amy has lost hers? I now feel that I need to live life to the full for the both of us.”
‘I’ll cope with MS. I can’t waste my life since Amy lost hers ‘Says Janis Winehouse
EACH day is a battle for Janis Winehouse as she struggles with an illness that makes it hard for her to walk, talk and concentrate.
In years to come, it could confine her to a wheelchair and destroy her sight.
But for Janis, 57, living with multiple sclerosis is nothing compared to the agony of losing daughter Amy.
Today, in a moving interview, she tells why she is doing all she can to make the most of her life — for the child she lost last summer as much as for herself.
She says: “How can I sit around wasting my life when Amy has lost hers? I now feel that I need to live life to the full for the both of us.”
The brave mum continues: “Amy’s death was obviously a huge loss and whenever I talk about her I feel tearful. “No one should ever have to lose a child. I lost my father at the end of January too and that took a huge toll. I feel there’s a large hole in my family.
“Stress can make the symptoms of MS worse and I do suffer with bouts of depression. This happened both before Amy died and after. “But what I’ve tried to do is focus my life on the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The charity takes up a lot of my time and it gives me something positive to focus on after all the bad that has happened. I’ve realised how much good I can do.”
Janis’s symptoms first appeared in her early 20s, soon after she gave birth to singer Amy’s big brother Alex. But it was not until 20 YEARS later that she was finally diagnosed with the incurable condition, after collapsing on a family holiday in 2001. And by her own admission, the illness has been made worse by the stress of the battles her daughter fought with drink and drugs before her premature death last July.
But Janis is still managing to live a full and active life — as most people with MS do, contrary to popular belief. Just a quarter of people with the condition are reliant on a wheelchair — despite a new survey by the MS Society finding that a majority of Brits think all sufferers are confined to a chair.
And most who are diagnosed manage to hold down full-time jobs, have families and live busy lives, just like Janis. She tells The Sun: “I would have been about 24 when the symptoms first started to appear — a tingling and feeling of numbness in the hands and feet. “But I battled on. I’d just had my first child, my son Alex, and I thought it was normal to be tired. I put the tingling down to pins and needles.
“I was working a lot and I was just trying to get on with my life as normal. “But as the years went on, the symptoms gradually got worse. I was being told, ‘It’s possibly this’, ‘It’s possibly that’, ‘Possibly, possibly, possibly.”
Janis and husband Mitch, 60, a taxi driver, went on to have Amy when Janis was 29. There were still few signs of the illness that was to follow. The Londoner explains: “I was healthy throughout my pregnancy and I didn’t have any signs of MS.
“The birth was straightforward. I started working as a lab technician at Alex’s school and when I was 36 I started studying for two science degrees and, four years later, qualified as a pharmacist. “But the work and looking after two children must have taken their toll and the symptoms started to return. I felt even worse than I had done before.
“Mitch and I separated. It was all very amicable but I did have a lot to do with the kids and work.
“It wasn’t easy doing it alone. My mother-in-law, Cynthia, was a huge support at this time. She lived nearby and helped me to cope with the children, but still it all became too much.”
In 2001 Janis was returning from a family holiday in Italy when she collapsed as she tried to walk down the steps of the plane after touching down back home. The trip itself had also been a nightmare. She remembers: “I was so dizzy I was being sick and I could barely stand up during the entire ten-day break. “I didn’t seem to have any control over my limbs and the same tingling returned.
“They suspected it might be MS and when I came home I had a scan which confirmed it. It took nearly 20 years to get that diagnosis. “I panicked that I would end up in a wheelchair and I was very worried about what it would mean for my future. “But after a few days I was well enough to return home from hospital.”
Janis was proactive, trying to find out as much as she could about the condition. She says: “The MS Society was really helpful, explaining what caused the symptoms, what I could do to manage them and what I could expect from my future.” As well as helping sufferers, the charity puts a lot of energy into trying to change stigmas associated with the illness.
The condition is usually diagnosed when people are in their 20s or 30s. It affects the central nervous system and can cause problems with mobility and balance, eyesight, memory and bladder control. It strikes around twice as many women as men. Janis says: “My hope is that someone can find a cure for MS.
“We need to find the key that will unlock MS and change the lives of the hundreds of thousands who have it.”
In the meantime Janis is doing what she can to manage the symptoms.
She says: “Next week I am going to have Botox injected into my bladder as this can help to control it.
“I don’t have to take many drugs. Fortunately, as a pharmacist, I’m quite knowledgable about these things.
“The only thing I take is for nausea and balance. I go to yoga every Tuesday night and have regular physiotherapy. I have reflexology too.
“I try to keep as fit as I can and condition my body so that it can fight the disease. “I just want to try to live as normal a life as possible. I don’t think about ending up in a wheelchair. I’m fairly determined that it won’t happen — and I can be pretty stubborn. “If it does happen, then my hope is that it won’t be for a very long time. “There are things I can’t do. I can’t walk around airports, it’s too far.
“I couldn’t run a marathon. I can’t go on walking holidays. But normally, as long as I plan everything around MS, then I live a brilliant, active life. “I won’t let it stop me achieving what I want to. I never have. I want to make my family proud.”
MS was first described in 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot. Amy’s mum Janis Winehouse has MS which is a disease where onset usually occurs in young adults, and it is more common in women.
There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatments attempt to return function after an attack, prevent new attacks, and prevent disability.
For more information about the symptoms or treatments of MS or Multiple Sclerosis can be found in the links listed below.