Hollyoaks star Jessica Fox has spoken out after her character was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition affecting the central nervous system. It’s caused by the immune system malfunctioning and attacking the coating around nerve fibres known as myelin, causing a range of symptoms.
In scenes shown on E4 on Thursday (19 Jan) Nancy Osborne learnt that she has the condition. In a later scene Nancy’s hand went numb as she bought her nephew some soup.
Jessica Fox, who has played Nancy since 2005, liaised with the MS Society during filming to gain a better understanding of the disease and she’s now spoken about the experience and the storyline to The Sun.
“That [the research] was a really good opportunity for me to ask lots of questions and find out more about it. To begin with I really didn’t know much about MS at all and it is quite a fascinating disease to portray on the screen because so many of the symptoms are hidden. I think we still don’t know much about it yet, we are still discovering.
“I think what shocked me most was how common it is really, particularly in young women and the fact that people do make it work and they go on to have children and careers and they can have normal lives with this.
“I want people to get some awareness about MS and how it affects people. Even if someone looks really well on the outside, on the inside they might be suffering and I think that is the main thing about this illness that I want to get across.
“It sort of comes and goes for her [Nancy] and she has relapses, so she might have a leg spasm or her vision might change or her speech becomes slurred. That was really difficult because you don’t want to oversell it.
“I think anything like this is quite scary because it has to be good television too, there has got to be drama there, but I was quite conscious of making it real. So if Nancy has had an episode where she has had a relapse and it is quite dramatic then it’s about making sure that the next week I portray it like maybe she is tired or struggling a bit.
“I try to keep that feeling in every episode so that the audience doesn’t forget. This is something she is going to have for the rest of her time on the show.” – Jessica Fox
The MS society notes that in excess of 100,000 people in the UK have MS. Symptoms typically present while a person is aged between 20-50, with women affected more than men. It’s common for a sufferer to experience issues with vision and mobility as well as fatigue but the condition varies as per which part of the central nervous system is affected.
The damage incurred to myelin disrupts messages travelling along nerve fibres while there can sometimes be damage to the nerve fibres themselves increasing disability. MS is a life-long condition but can be managed.