Bodybuilder to Disability Advocate, Katt Won't Let MS Stop Her

Meet Katt, for nearly two decades she has been navigating the challenging terrain of life with Multiple Sclerosis. Once a competitive bodybuilder, Katt's journey has taken a different path, one that's defined by resilience, advocacy, and her newfound companion: Cool Crutches.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from / what you do for a living / the nature of your disability?

Hi! My name’s Katt with two t’s. I’m from Kettering in the UK, I have Multiple Sclerosis, and I’ve had two spinal surgeries following a spinal injury in 2018, (non MS related!). I’m an ex-competitive natural bodybuilder and coach, although I’m sadly no longer able to work due to my illness. I still try to help others with their health and fitness goals and also advocate for myself and others with MS.

How long have you been living with a disability and how has it affected your daily life both physically and mentally?

I have lived with Multiple Sclerosis for around 18 years and started having relapses aged 16. I often see/hear people say that their MS doesn’t define them, but in my case it absolutely does and I’m okay with that!

Living ‘unknowingly’ with MS for a long time has completely shaped the trajectory of my life, as I’ve had to relentlessly adapt to the ongoing progression and symptoms over the years  because I was told by multiple healthcare professionals I was ‘fine’. I do believe having to manage my illness, pretty much on my own for so long, has created the resilient, empathetic human I am today. 

I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t massively affected my mental health, but I’m very lucky to have an amazing therapist. She has helped me understand myself and process the heavy grief that comes with having an incurable illness. 

When I was first diagnosed I wrote, ‘no matter what happens, I’m going to make a beautiful life no matter what it takes’ - things are far from easy, but having an illness like MS can really make you realise what’s important, and to appreciate all of the goodness and joy you do have in your life.

Do you feel adjusting to a disability is supported by society? How could this be better?

Adjusting to being significantly more disabled, in such a short amount of time has been a RIDE. You really do discover how society just isn’t built for disabled people. Accessibility for disabled people is a huge issue, and I feel so strongly about people with disabilities having access to the same experiences and opportunities as their able bodied peers. Just because someone appears fit and healthy, doesn’t necessarily mean they are, and this is something I wish was more recognised.

Are there any things you've found have helped support you or impacted your mental health in a positive way when it comes to living with a disability?

I think the three most prominent things that help my mental health as a disabled woman are 

  1. My sausage dog - on the hardest days she encourages me to do my best for us both.

  2. The online community - shared lived experience is unmatched. Connecting with people all over the world through my writing, or simply just chatting in DMs, there are certain things only others who share my illness can understand. We help each other, listen to each other, love each other, and champion for each other every day, and it’s a pretty beautiful thing.

  3. My therapist - through therapy, I learn to understand myself on a very deep level, and through understanding myself, I love myself. This makes it easier to extend the kindness and compassion you have to learn to give yourself when living with a lifelong illness.

What is your biggest struggle living with your disability?

I would say my biggest struggle living with MS is the fluctuations with my illness day to day. For someone who has always worked well with structure and routine, and who likes to plan and be organised, having MS, every day is completely different. You have to learn to be okay with things not necessarily being how you ‘planned’, and doing the best, and the most, with what function and energy you have on each individual day, which is always SO widely varied! 

Being kind to yourself, and accepting when your body and brain simply need to rest is an acquired skill, and is easier said than done.

What advice would you give to someone facing a life changing diagnosis or injury?

The first thing I would say to anyone diagnosed with a life changing diagnosis or injury is you’re allowed to be upset and angry. People will try to move you away from your grief and pain, but that grief and pain is valid. 

Give yourself the time and space to grieve, unapologetically.

The second thing I would say is that it’s going to be okay. That seems like a very easy, almost flippant thing to say, but from experiencing times of hopelessness and despair over my lifetime, and from many extended periods of time in hospital, every time I thought things were never ever going to get better, over time, they did. Maybe not ‘better’ in the typical sense, but different.

Probably the biggest thing of all, especially if you like to see yourself as wildly independent — let people show up for you. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask for, and accept, the help and care from the ones you love, and who fiercely love you back.

Another thing I’d like to briefly touch on is educating yourself on your own condition. I think it’s SO important to understand your own illness. There is a difference between catastrophizing and educating. You don’t need to go to ‘worst case scenario’ to prepare yourself for what the future might bring.

What keeps you motivated?

My main motivation in life is love. Spending time, and making memories with the people that matter. That’s basically what makes all of the hard stuff worth it. Human connection and seeing the people I love happy.

Another big driver in my life is advocating for, and raising awareness on the benefits of early intervention with Multiple Sclerosis. The sooner you get on treatment for your MS, ideally with a high efficacy DMD, the better the outcomes in regards to disability long term. 

When did you start using Cool Crutches or Sticks or both, and why?

I transitioned to using my Cool Crutch full time three months ago as my mobility has taken a fairly dramatic dip over the last 12 months. I decided to invest in something more robust, (and pretty!), that would support me daily. 

It was a difficult transition period initially, but it has improved my quality of life no end. I chose a crutch over a stick for daily use, mostly because I can hang it off my arm! I’m usually trying to juggle multiple things at once and I also have poor grip, so now I’m no longer dropping it constantly. I can also fully bear weight on it, as standing still for me is difficult, and it helps with my balance as both of my legs are very wobbly these days!

Do you think Cool Crutches have helped you to move more or walk better?

Cool Crutches have definitely helped me move AND walk better with MS. My crutch (I call her Millie), actually makes it possible for me to walk ‘properly’ for more than a few steps at a time! Which in turn, has opened up the world a bit more for me again. 

I’ve also noticed my posture and confidence has improved tenfold. I used to walk very hunched over to try and hide my mobility issues as much as possible… Millie helps me walk with my head high and shoulders back, and I can now enter a room or space with so much more confidence. It took some practice getting used to her, but we’re at the point now where we can even sometimes pick up a bit of speed!

Have Cool Crutches changed your view of mobility aids at all?

Cool Crutches has changed my view on mobility aids massively. For a long time I avoided using one full time as I felt like I was ‘giving in’ and I didn’t want people to see me differently. I also hated the thought of using a very ‘medical’ looking aid. However, the help and support Millie gives me has been life changing, and sometimes now I even forget I’ve got her by my side.

I don’t feel embarrassed anymore, and having a beautiful stick that fits my individual personality so well, actually just brings me so much joy. I no longer see Millie as my enemy - she’s now a dear friend.

How do businesses like Cool Crutches help the disabled community?

Business like Cool Crutches, in my opinion, make us as disabled people feel seen. Obviously the aids help us in a practical sense, but also support the fact we are all very much individuals. I also believe companies such as Cool Crutches help normalise disability, and help support the narrative that being disabled is not a ‘bad’ thing, or something to be embarrassed of or that we should try to hide. Millie has helped me embrace my disabled self in all her glory.

What's the best advice you've been given?

One of my oldest friends once said to me “It’ll all be alright in the end, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end”, and it’s a quote that still sticks with me to this day.

Is there anything in the pipeline you're excited about and would like to share?

I’m very excited to be starting to write my book over the next couple of weeks. I still haven’t completely decided on the official title, but it will be about love, life, and living with a chronic illness. I will also be moving all of my writing over to an official blog. 

A few years ago my good friend Sam and myself started a podcast called WhatMS, and I’m really hoping to get some more episodes filmed next year too! 

I also have another big goal, which is to step on stage one final time with bodybuilding, in the mixed disability category. To stand on stage one final time (with the help of my Cool Crutch!), would mean more than I could put into words.

We wish Katt the best of luck with her book, podcast, and bodybuilding ambitions. For her tireless efforts to promote accessibility and early intervention in Multiple Sclerosis treatment, she deserves all the success and rewards coming her way! 

Meet more of the Cool Crutches community…

Sporting Superstar Marni's Inspirational Journey with Amputation

A Mother’s Love: Lauren Keeps Fighting In The Face of Chronic Pain

Fitness to Resilience: Meg Embraces Change with Cool Crutches

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