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The MS Handshake

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Out here in Texas there aren’t many fans of the D.C./Virginia sports teams so whenever I wear any Redskins, Nationals or Hokies gear, it stands out. 

Last week, while I was at the store, an older man started a conversation with me. “Go Nationals!” I heard him exclaim as he was staring at the Washington Nationals hat I had on...

Dear Scholarship Donor

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It is with eyes full of tears and a heart full of gratitude that I write this letter. I am a 35-year-old mom of two children, Jason and Jocelyn. When they were born, I was working while pursuing a degree in business administration. However, when my youngest was about six months old, I was taking her for a walk when my legs began to feel heavy and I fell. I began a two-year journey of testing and seeing specialists, with no answers until I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012. I knew my children were growing up. They were so full of life and I felt like my life was being sucked from me one nerve cell at a time...

A Morning Prayer

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​My nemesis, the alarm clock, is shouting at me, urgently notifying me that it’s time to leap out of bed and go to work for the day. My eyes snap open. I can see! Without thinking at all about it, I contract the appropriate muscles in my side and my arm to slap the snooze button for the fifth time this morning. I have to use the bathroom, but I can hold it and I take a moment to appreciate that fact.   Sunlight is seeping in between the window blinds, slowly illuminating the room with its warm glow. What else can I see? ...

Five Things

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About nine years ago, I was in a meeting at work and the executive in charge declared: “Five things. I can only remember five things at one time.”   He said it with a smile, but I understood the larger theme that he was communicating – keep the presentations brief and our recommendations/solutions as clear and concise as possible. Five things. His words still echo in my thoughts today but for vastly different reasons than what he had originally intended...

Dear Cat

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July 1, 2013   Dear Cat,   Look at you sitting there, tapping your feet and fidgeting with your hands in that cold, grey exam room. You’re moments away from receiving medical confirmation of that little monster that has been haunting you over the last few months, probably years:   You have multiple sclerosis...

Let the Music Heal You

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Icckk!  I don’t like the MRI test. It makes me anxious and claustrophobic. For those who may not be familiar with it, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. The test is an excellent tool for monitoring multiple sclerosis. But if you’ve ever experienced one, you know how anxiety-provoking they can be. Some MRI centers allow patients to bring their own music to listen to while undergoing the test. I do this and it does help relax me. I bring a CD of what I call my “healing music”. I hand it to the technician, and they put it into their computer, hand me earphones that play my music. I still do not like the test, but the music gets me through it...

Myelin repair and stem cells get attention at AAN Meeting

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Tremendous advances in the understanding and treatment of MS were presented last week at the AAN Meeting in Vancouver. One of the areas getting the most attention was myelin repair. Myelin wraps around nerve fibers, like insulation on an electric cord. In MS the myelin is damaged, disrupting electrical signaling and making the nerves more susceptible to damage that leads to progression. Myelin repair is seen as a promising approach for restoring lost function and slowing down – or even stopping – progression.   We have recently come to learn that the brain is full of spare cells waiting to be called into the service of repairing myelin. In early MS, these cells find their way to areas of damage, wrap around nerve fibers and repair myelin. However, as the years go by, they lose this ability. Finding ways to stimulate the brain's ability to repair itself is an area of intense study and several notable presentations were made at last week’s meeting...

How does diet impact MS?

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It’s so interesting to see new studies on the potential impacts of diet on MS. Is there something people can eat, or stay away from, that would actually help make life with MS better? Studies presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) showcase this growing area of research, but did not all find positive results. That’s ok. All of these are arrows pointing us toward – or away from – solutions for people with MS. (Links are included to abstracts on the AAN site - access is free.) Walk down any grocery aisle and you’ll find products marketed as antioxidants.  Antioxidants block the action of “free radicals,” which are normal by-products of bodily processes that may cause tissue injury in MS. A poster presentation by Dr. Rebecca Spain and colleagues from Oregon Health & Science University reported promising results from a clinical trial of lipoic acid, an antioxidant supplement, in 51 people with secondary progressive MS... 

Studies advance emotional and cognitive health in MS

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Finding solutions that advance emotional wellness and cognitive function can make every aspect of living with MS better. As a clinical psychologist who has treated people living with this disease, I find it heartening to see how researchers presenting this week at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting are propelling this search forward. Here is just a small sample of their work. (Links are included to abstracts on the AAN site - access is free.) Let’s start with cognition – half or more of all people with MS will experience cognitive issues at some point. The fact that there is such a thing called “cognitive rehabilitation” rightfully suggests that there are options open to many that may help improve cognitive function. For example, Dr. Leigh Charvet and colleagues at New York University Langone Medical Center and the State University of New York at Stony Brook tested a computer-based cognitive training program in 135 people with MS. Of this group, 71 people used the training program – a series of brain-training games that are continuously adapted to keep the individual challenged – and 64 played regular video games for one hour per day, five days per week, over 12 weeks. Although the “placebo” video game group logged more playing time, those in the training group showed significantly greater improvement in cognitive function, as shown by a number of neuropsychological tests. I hope further testing makes this and similar programs easily accessible for improving cognition in MS...

The Last Laugh

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My heart is in my stomach.   My mouth is dry and he’s standing there, almost bracing himself, scanning my face for a reaction.   But I am numb—not in the tingly MS way, but I’m briefly stunned, mentally and emotionally.   My husband has just revealed to me that a longtime friend of his, someone he trusted in moments of private human emotion, has likened me to a child and, further implied, a burden...

The MS Grenade

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Everyone has their own 30-second story. It’s not a detailed autobiography, just high-level talking points that capture who you are and what you do. This isn’t just an adult thing; you may not realize it, but you’ve been doing it since you learned to talk. The Early Years:  When you are just a toddler and meet someone new, within seconds, you’re discussing how old you are.  Age is the defining characteristic of a child’s life – sometimes a question about having a pet, siblings or how many times the Tooth Fairy has visited might be included - but the focus revolves around your number – 3, 6, or even 9 years old...