More MS news articles for September 2002

'Muscle man' star gets on top of MS


Graeme Sinclair describes his body as a curious mix of muscle man and chicken legs.

His face beams with ruddy health - the result of an addiction to fishing, hunting and the outdoors.

His upper body is strong, with muscles developed at the gym and by hauling gigantic game fish out of the sea.

It is his lower body that does not fit with this 44-year-old in the prime of his life.

His legs are unresponsive, resting helplessly in the wheelchair he has used for the past three years.

Graeme Sinclair - star of the top-rating television show Gone Fishing - has multiple sclerosis. The disease of the central nervous system causes scarring of the fatty sheath which covers nerves.

The scarring distorts messages from the brain and spinal cord to the body, causing loss of balance or coordination, tremors, fatigue, difficulty walking and numbness.

There is no known cure.

Diagnosed with MS 3 1/2 years ago, Sinclair wrote off the first symptoms as old injuries coming back to haunt him. His eventual diagnosis foreshadowed a tough time ahead.

His former partner walked out, taking their son with her, his father died and he lost his job reading the weather for TV3.

"It was a bit like cleaning out the closet. I knew things could only get better."

The disease progressed rapidly but suddenly went into remission about two years ago. He is now fighting back, using homoeopathy, vitamins, minerals and workouts.

"I'm not exactly a pretty sight at the moment. But I'm as strong as an ox, it's just the chicken legs that need to be worked on."

His positive attitude has prompted comments he is too happy for someone with MS.

Sinclair believes attitude is the key to beating MS.

"I told myself I was going to go out there, embrace every day and make the most of it. I'm a bit cantankerous. I'm competitive and I think that has helped me deal with this."

One of the most devastating aspects has been the reaction of some friends.

"One of the hardest things is that some people see you and run away. They can't deal with seeing the person who climbs mountains, hunts and fishes sitting in a wheelchair. They don't want a bar of it."

But others have stuck by him.

"If you want to keep your relationship with friends you've just got to be positive. No one wants a doom-gloom merchant."

Sinclair uses an underwater scooter for filming diving sequences and rides a four-wheel-drive farm bike while hunting. Two weeks ago, in the Bay of Islands, he hooked a rare broadbill weighing 165kg. It took 2 1/2 hours to pull in the giant fish.

"My legs started to give out after about an hour but I found ways to use my upper body more effectively. Everyone was encouraging and we all burst into tears when we got it into the boat."

Sinclair is certain he will beat the disease.

"We need people's help in terms of treating us like human beings, but we also need financial help because just around the corner there may be a little key that unlocks the door to beat this thing and it could be tomorrow. That's the hope we live with."

MS Awareness week begins on Monday. Automatic $10 donations can be made by ringing 0900 937-267.

© Copyright 2002, New Zealand Herald