Ausnew Home Care | How flowers helped Goulburn Valley woman Marli Kelly reinvent her life after an MS diagnosis

How flowers helped Goulburn Valley woman Marli Kelly reinvent her life after an MS diagnosis

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Throughout our lives, we all go through many stages and phases. 

We try different jobs, hobbies, sometimes even live in different places around the world.

But sometimes we are thrown curveballs that can change the way we live and the way we see the world and our future.

Losing your sense of self 

In 2018, Marli Kelly was working in public relations for the Victorian government when she noticed her health deteriorating.

Soon after, she was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis [MS], a disease that affects the body's central nervous system. With MS, the body's immune system attacks myelin, the protective layer around nerve fibres, causing inflammation and lesions and making it difficult for the brain to send signals to rest of the body.

"It is pretty aggressive, so I eventually had to medically retire," Ms Kelly says.

a photo of a lady with red hair taking a photo
Ms Kelly was diagnosed in 2019.(Supplied: Marli Kelly)

As someone who had partly defined herself through her career, Ms Kelly found this period of her life difficult.

"Obviously, when you lose who you think you are it can be really tough," she said.

"The first thing we do when we go somewhere is say to someone, 'What do you do?'."

As part of her recovery and reinvention, Ms Kelly began running dried flower arrangement workshops with her friends and people she knew in the community.

In a short space of time, the workshops became very popular with the Goulburn Valley community.

"They just organically grew, people did one and then they shared it," Ms Kelly says.

a white table filled with vases of dried flowers.
Floral design has provided Ms Kelly with a creative outlet.(ABC Shepparton: Georgina Carroll)

"I feel incredibly blessed. There is something about bringing women together that is really, really powerful."

A positive NDIS experience

Ms Kelly is supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

"I am so lucky. So many people talk of a bad NDIS experience and I have been really, really blessed."

"They help me to be able to be still in the community, because the mental and emotional toll on losing who you are in the world is really, really big."

Ms Kelly's support workers not only help her day to day but also assist her in running and facilitating the workshops.

a selfie of five ladies standing closely together
Marli is very close with her NDIS support workers.(Supplied: Marli Kelly)

"When you have a condition, there is a lot of trust that goes into that relationship," Ms Kelly says.

"It's really hard because there are days where you just feel really vulnerable. I think it is hard to let someone see you like that."

The MS impacts Ms Kelly's mobility and mental agility. She has daily experiences with falling, fatigue, bowel issues and cognitive disturbance.

"My personality is fast and pretty full on … I have had to learn how to slow down because I had a lot of falls when I first got diagnosed," she says.

"I look OK, but I am numb from head to toe, so I fall a lot.

"A have a lot of brains lesions, so the cognitive disturbance has been really hard to deal with.

"As a person who used words and was writing for a living it feels like the cruellest irony … I get pretty upset about that actually."

Ms Kelly's MS will become more pronounced with time.

"Some people go into remission with their [MS] but that is a different form. Mine is only going to get more progressive, so you do have to face some decisions that are pretty confronting," she said.

Creating 'nice energy' 

Ms Kelly believes her reinvention through flowers is a "natural progression".

"I've always been very curious … very arty. Even as a kid I'd be collecting gumnuts and all sorts of things," she says.

A floral wreath hanging on a white door
Workshop participants often make floral wreaths.(ABC Shepparton: Georgina Carroll)

Through the floral community Ms Kelly has made global connections using social media.

She also works with many Goulburn Valley businesses through her floral installations and workshops.

"Flowers make people happy, but the biggest bit is being able to grab my self-esteem and restore it, and doing that through flowers is pretty special," she said.

Ms Kelly believes the success of the workshops comes from people wanting to connect and do something creative.

Women making floral wreaths around a table
The floral workshops are popular in the Goulburn Valley.(ABC Shepparton: Georgina Carroll )

"We don't allow ourselves time to do something special, and it is so mindful," she says.

"It is a really nice energy."

Ms Kelly hopes to continue her workshops for as long as her body will allow.

"We all have a part of us that just wants to contribute. You need a reason to get up in the morning and when you don't have that it is really easy to have self talk in your head that is quite negative," she says.

"There is always a creative idea we can expand on."


Source: ABC

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