26 FEBRUARY 2021

Best friends Michelle Brookfield and Melissa Roche, both from Hobart, have banded together to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the 25,600 Australians living with multiple sclerosis.

Melissa was diagnosed with MS in 2013 and Michelle was the first person to know that something was wrong.

“When the GP told me that I had lesions in my CT scan, I went home stunned. Soon afterwards Michelle turned up to my house with drinks and pizza, and she was with me when I told my parents over the phone, as they live in Victoria,” Melissa said.

“Melissa was diagnosed six years ago at the age of 32, which has been a real challenge for her to live with,” Michelle continued.

Michelle and her teammates have since raised thousands of dollars for her best mate and other Australians living with MS.

Multiple sclerosis affects more young people than any other chronic neurological condition and the average of diagnosis is 30. It can strike anyone at any time and the symptoms vary dramatically.

At the 2018 Hobart MS Mega Swim, Michelle and her team, the Hobart Mermaids, raised a total of $5,500, and in 2019 they smashed their goal, raising $8,066 with their renamed team, Hobart Unicorns. In 2020, the Hobart Unicorns returned and raised another $2,867, with Michelle raising over $1000 alone.

The MS Mega Swims help fund the MS Go for Gold Scholarships which are open to people living with multiple sclerosis, of all ages, who wish to achieve a dream. The scholarships can be used to achieve dreams from one of seven categories: The Arts, Education, Travel, Music, Sport, Employment and Lifestyle & Wellbeing. Each scholarship is up to $3,000 in value, depending on the circumstances.

Melissa was not able to take part in the 2019 event because of her health. “I was still there supporting the team, fully-dressed up as a unicorn,” Melissa added.

“Our Mega Swim team wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Michelle. It is a very special friendship that we have.”

“The support and encouragement from all my friends, family and workmates has been amazing. And this year many local businesses got behind our fundraising efforts which has blown me away,”

"I have MS, but it doesn't have me," Ms Roche added.