I used to jump all the way down the steps in Hodge Lee in one leap. I felt like Superman, or rather, Superwoman. That was before I got MS.
Arshiya Malik, of Bletchley, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of six. Now, 21 and wheelchair-bound, growing up has been far from easy.
“When I was first told that I had MS, I thought I was rather special – that I had something other people didn’t have,” she says of her diagnosis.
“But then I looked at my friends and I realised that there was something wrong; I had something they didn’t have, but it was not such a good thing.”
With MS most commonly developing in people at around the age of 30, and very rare in young children, Arshiya’s was an exceptional case.
But her incredible optimism has meant that her disability has not prevented her from enjoying life.
“One thing I have always felt is that when something is wrong you should not complain about it; you should just try to keep quiet and get on with your life.”
Despite only attending Brook End School part-time from the age of eight, Arshiya achieved six GCSEs in 2008, including Drama and Art, two subjects she is passionate about.
“With Drama you can express your feelings, which makes you feel better,” she explains.
“And Art takes depression away. If you paint over the word ‘sad’ with a cheerful colour or a rainbow, then the sadness goes!”
As a self-proclaimed chatterbox, Arshiya has always loved meeting new people. “I like to talk to strangers and make new friends.” she says.
“They might be scared of me at first because of my tremors, but the fact that I am happy to share the reality of my disability makes them happy.”
And with her big smile, bubbly personality, and positive attitude, people certainly do take a shine to Arshiya.
“Meeting Arshiya is always a very enjoyable occasion,” says Uschi Kraus Harper, her general health advisor.
“She is one of the most amazing human beings I know; cheerful in spite of her severe MS, and with a great sense of humour.”
Indeed, despite being restricted from so many of the things able-bodied people take for granted, Arshiya embraces the things she can do.
“I go to Inter Action two afternoons a week at Peartree Bridge, and I love it. I am the only one in a wheelchair, but the teacher says I am magnificent, and the star of the group.
“I sometimes feel like I lost my life when I was eight; I’ve lost loads of my friends.
“But it makes me feel stronger as well. Now I am 21 and, looking back, I wonder if other people could have coped. That makes me feel strong.”