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MS’ 9,585 Days

Blog Summary

MS used to have me. For a quarter of a century, I went to extraordinary lengths to hide my MS from everyone but my very closest family and friends. I thought that by hiding my MS and lying about the source of my ever changing ailments, I was in control of it.

I did not make my peace with MS and come to a gradual and gentle acceptance of my illness. I didn’t even make the choice to tell people when the disease backed me into a corner.  I thought my world was going to fall apart if I shared my diagnosis. I was sure I would lose my identity, that my strength would evaporate along with my self-esteem, and that people would no longer see me. They would see only a diseased, weak, helpless individual. So I lied...

Bounce Back

Blog Summary

“Lauren, once it’s gone, we’re not at a place medically where we can get it back.”   The “it” was the functioning of my right hand. The ability to feel the grip of the violin bow; the ability to control the micro movements needed to make the bow dance across the strings; even the ability to simply pick up a pencil from the stand without accidentally launching it across the symphony...

Recognizing Your Lucky Charm

Blog Summary

Clare was gardening in her backyard when she saw it: a giant, vivid rainbow spanning across the sky. Clare’s eyes widened. She’d been waiting her whole life for this. Her friends had found gold at the end of a rainbow and all of their dreams had come true. And now, it was Clare’s turn...

Don't Sweat the MS

Blog Summary

Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s how the saying goes, right? But what if the seemingly smaller aspects of your life are actually the ones that drive your engine and spirit? Life with multiple sclerosis is not easy. Energy needs to be rationed. The odd and sometimes agonizing sensations never cease. Pain is constant. The quantity and quality of vision and mobility is negotiated on a moment-to-moment basis...

When Genes and the Environment Collide

Blog Summary

What happens when genes and the environment interact? This question is one of the complex pieces of the MS puzzle. More than 200 MS susceptibility genes have been identified, and the list of environmental factors linked to MS is slowly coming into focus. Of course, it’s important to remember that not everyone who develops MS has been exposed to the identified MS risk factors, and people exposed to those factors won’t necessarily develop MS. But how do genetic and environmental triggers interact to bring on MS, or make it worse? Several presentations at last week’s ACTRIMS 2017 meeting addressed these important gaps in our knowledge...

Vitamin D and Gut Bacteria: More Clues and Questions

Blog Summary

I just got back from ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for the Treatment and Research in MS), where more than 700 MS doctors and researchers shared their results, especially their work aligned with this year’s theme: Environmental Factors, Genetics, and Epigenetics in MS Susceptibility and Clinical Course. This was my first time at ACTRIMS and I found the theme and the talks really compelling. One thing that struck me is the evolving story about how specific things we all encounter in our lives interact with the “cards” (genes) we were dealt at birth. Our genes predispose us to be susceptible to various medical conditions, but that doesn’t mean we will get those conditions. In the case of MS, now there are 200 genetic variants identified that increase a person’s likelihood of getting the disease. I’m struck by how many “moving parts” seem to be involved in whether or not a person gets MS and what their MS experience and course will be...

Unaware of All the Invisible Things

Blog Summary

I spent my twenties angry that my thighs were not thinner and my abs were not flatter. Sometimes I try to calculate how many hours of untapped imagination was wasted in that decade. Time I could have spent exploring my world instead of agonizing over my perfectly healthy body. On my nuttiest days I try to measure out my bad deeds on a "karma scale" to see if the total equals MS in your thirties.  How far away or close are we to our brains — our miraculous life force floating pristine in fluid right behind or eyes? ...

How long have you been sick?

Blog Summary

“How long have you been sick?” she asked. “Oh, I’m not sick,” I responded. The dental assistant who was taking my information looked puzzled. I continued, “The neurologist who is treating my MS suggested I see the dentist as he specializes in jaw problems which I am having.” She asked again, “How long have you been sick?” I saw a look of impatience sweep across her face. Then I realized her inquiry was not about my current health but my MS...

Ending Up in a Wheelchair

Blog Summary

“Not all patients with MS end up in a wheelchair.” I first heard this phrase the day I was diagnosed. “I don’t want to end up in a wheelchair,” is something I soon started telling myself with alarming regularity. The terror of this thought was what got me to the gym, got me giving myself painful injections, got me scared into action. You’ve heard the refrain, you may have said it yourself. It’s no coincidence we all express our fear of decline using identical language: end up in a wheelchair. It’s an unhelpful, toxic mantra that reinforces what society wants us to believe about disability, that it’s a fate worse than death.   The troubling reality of MS is that a wheelchair is not the worst possible outcome. Sadly, advancing disease doesn’t always stop with the loss of mobility. That’s the bad news. The good news is, a wheelchair is not, in fact, the end. Many people live fulfilling lives with the assistance of a chair and other devices. Of course, the best news is that with today’s treatments, many will never require the use of mobility aids, but that’s a headline that already gets a lot of attention. For those who will need one, who happen to ‘end up’ here, the feeling can be one of failure, of being beyond hope, of being cheated of the promise that this wouldn’t happen. MS is full of hard truths. But continuing to push this softer narrative has consequences beyond hurt feelings...

Choose Your Own Adventure: A Day in the Life

Blog Summary

One of my favorite books when I was a kid was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in which I chased Carmen Sandiego all over the globe. Paragraph by paragraph, I decided what my next move would be in order to find her. It was fun and, without me knowing it at the time, it taught me how to make educated choices and that, based on those choices, there would be some sort of consequence, no matter the outcome. Having a disease like MS is a lot like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. My entire day is filled with important decisions to make that will carry a great impact, even lasting into the next few days. For example, have you ever spent 20-30 minutes deciding what outfit to wear? No, not because you want to keep up with your trendy coworker, avoid wearing the same dress as someone else at a party, or because you think your butt looks big in those pants...

Five Ways to Healthier Holidays

Blog Summary

Staying on a diet can be tough even under the best of conditions — which holiday gatherings of family and friends definitely aren’t. But there are ways to stay strong. Following are some tips that may help you steer toward healthier holiday eating...