Former Rotherham teacher reignites creativity through TikTok after MS diagnosis

  • Video report by Emma Wilkinson. Words by ITV News Digital Content Producer Becky Lancashire

A former drama and music teacher, who had to leave her job after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), has gained a huge social media following by charting her battle with the symptoms on TikTok.

Joanna Mason, from Rotherham, has racked up more than 55,000 followers and almost 700,000 likes under her pseudonym 'The Yorkshire Wife'.

The mum-of-two decided to share her MS journey following her own diagnosis back in November 2021.

It came after months of investigations into her symptoms - which included vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), headaches and weakness - with an MR scan and lumber puncture eventually revealing lesions on the brain and other clear signs of the condition.

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a lifelong condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including fatigue, difficulty walking and thinking, vision problems, muscle spasms and problems with balance.

"When [the diagnosis] finally came through it was a relief," she said.

"A relief that it wasn't a brain tumour - that it was something we were going to live with. I knew there was a reason for everything that was happening."

Joanna with her husband and two sons. Credit: Joanna Mason

Although she originally thought she would be able to return to the classroom, her day-to-day disabilities meant she had to give up work entirely.

Joanna said: "My vocal chords have been greatly affected by my MS, and as a former music and drama teacher that's been a form of grief to go through.

"It's this dynamic disability where you can change from one hour to the next."

'It's been a form of grief': Joanna describes the many symptoms she battles with

Despite her difficulties, she set out to find the positives - deciding to focus on what she could do, not what she was unable to do.

"We have a little family motto - it's not what happens to you that makes you who you are, it's how you deal with it," she said.

"It was almost like being back in lockdown because I was trapped in these four walls. I'd come out of a job where I was being creative every day composing music, choreographing, directing shows... and all of sudden I was on my own."

Joanna shows what her symptom of 'short-circuiting' looks like

But through the power of social media, she was able to draw on that creativity to tell her story and help others too.

She said: "As well as benefitting me and me being able to track my journey... It's wonderful to know that sharing what I go through is helping somebody else not feel alone.

"I've had people say 'I've been following you for ages and now I'm going struggling with this symptom', but they don't feel as scared because they've seen somebody else go through it."

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