‘JK Rowling spotted my MS and I wish I had acted on it’

Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Picture: Getty Images
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Picture: Getty Images
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She has brought magic into the lives of millions around the globe, but in particular JK Rowling has touched the lives of those in Scotland with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The celebrated author is best known for the world-famous Harry Potter books, but writer Helen Fowler also remembers her to be the first person who spotted the signs of MS in her during a chance encounter.

In 2006, new mother Helen was walking along Morningside Road with her daughter in a pram when she met Rowling.

Helen said: “I was exhausted at the time, people talk to you when there’s a baby in the buggy in a way you normally wouldn’t speak to strangers on the street but I remember that there was this lady outside a shop in Morningside and she smiled at us.

“She seemed to understand that being with a new baby is knackering, but I could tell from the way she looked sympathetic that she was a mum too.”

At the time, Helen walked with a stumble, but never thought anything of it, believing it was related to her recent pregnancy.

She added: “She must have picked up on the way I was walking because her mother had suffered from the condition and asked me if I had MS – I think that she maybe thought that was why I was speaking to her and I was just shocked.”

It was the first time that anyone had mentioned MS to Helen; however, she was then diagnosed with the condition in 2014.

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“The thing is, MS is tricky for doctors to diagnose,” Helen added. “But there was obviously something wrong then and she hit the nail on the head. She knew the signs because her mother had the most severe form of it.

“I wasn’t diagnosed until 2014, but I often think that had it been caught sooner, the illness wouldn’t have caught up and I wouldn’t be in as bad a way as I am now with blindness and a walking impairment.”

Rowling opened the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic in memory of her late mother to help others with conditions like MS and Helen describes it as “like night and day” compared to the previous centre.

She added: “I’d like to say thank you to her for putting MS on the map, it takes a lot of stigma away.”