WHEN heroic police officer David Rathband committed suicide, the nation mourned.
PC Rathband was blinded when he was shot in the face by killer Raoul Moat. However, he turned adversity to triumph and set up a charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation.
Then, it seems, his life fell apart.
Jay Denton felt the acute tragedy of his death but said she was not surprised by it. Disability does change everything.
Jay said: “I think he was the sort of person who was used to helping other people. He could not accept having to take help from others.
“It is hard enough for us mere mortals to adjust so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him.”
Jay, of High Woods, Colchester, should know.
She was fit and healthy and enjoyed playing football with her son, Josh.
Today, she cannot even stand.
Jay has multiple sclerosis, a degenerative and disabling neurological condition for which there is no cure.
There is no medication which can halt the march of her disease.
But the way Jay sees it, she has two choices – learn how to deal with it or give up.
She has no intention of giving up.
“Some people politely say I am stubborn. I think it is more blooded-minded, but that is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
“I don’t like to have to ask for help. It is a matter of pride, of independence, but I will accept it if someone offers.”
Jay, who is 42, had the first symptons of MS when she was 22.
She was working as an officer manager, a job she loved, when her legs started giving way.
“It went from there at random moments. My knees would give way. I had a strange sensation in my feet.
“I went to my doctors and about two months later went for tests,” she said.
During that time, Jay’s balance had got worse and her eyesight had become unpredictable.
The scans came back clear but Jay was given a course of steroids at hospital.
The treatment helped, although she still had a tingling sensation from the waist down.
Looking back, Jay thinks the episode was the first manifestation of multiple sclerosis and she believes it was triggered by the sudden death of her father Brian, who was 49.
Life carried on quietly after her treatment. She had her son Josh, who is now 15, and enjoyed the role of being an active mother, taking him to mother and toddler groups and trips to Colchester Zoo.
Then in 1999, both her mother and father-in-law died and she had a miscarriage.
The following year, she fell pregnant with her daughter Bek, who is now 11, but she knew the symptons of her illness had returned.
“My balance started to go but I tried to fight it. Clearly, I couldn’t,” she said.
In winter 2001, she got flu and her temperature went sky high.
On New Year’s Eve, she was taken by ambulance to hospital, unable to do anything. Life had changed for ever.
Jay is now dependent on a wheelchair and as her condition worsens, her arms are getting weaker.
“You do go through a process which is like grieving.
“You go through denial and self-pity and both those feelings are valid.
“Denial is brilliant because it means you try to get up and do stuff.
“Self-pity is right in its own way but must be kept in moderation.
“It is OK to feel sorry for yourself, it’s justified, but then you have to move on.
“You feel anger too but then you have to channel that energy and use it in a positive way.
“You have to respect your condition. I know because of MS, I have a finite amount of energy so I have to manage what I do.
“It is a pay off – I will rest in the morning one day so I can go out in the afternoon.
“I have changed the way I think over the years. I think if you can do something, do it, if not accept it. It is my self-preservation.
“I do know a lot of people who pursue a cure, it is like the Holy Grail.
“But I have two children to bring up on my own and that is my priority.”
Jay’s children are her driving force.
“The children have taught me to live in the moment, not to brood on the past or worry about the future,” she said.
“I look at the video of me running around playing football with Josh but it doesn’t affect me.
“That was a different person. I think I have lived six lifetimes in my life.
“Everyone, regardless of their physical health, can have good and bad days.
“I find cursing is an excellent way of dealing with that.”
Jay enjoys her children’s rich lives, their successes at school and their interest in drama.
She is studying for an A level in psychology at the Wilson Marriage Centre in Colchester, which she find fascinating, and she helps at the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre.
She also provides support to others living with MS and has 900 friends on Facebook and speaks to MS sufferers across the globe.
Life is not perfect for Jay.
But she would tell people who face a life living with disability there is light at the end of the tunnel – and it is not a train.